Auburn High boys basketball finished area play in impressive fashion with a 62-52 comeback win over rival Opelika on Friday night.
The Tigers returned home for the last time in the regular season after suffering a tough loss at Smiths Station on Tuesday. Auburn honored Ja’Keith Carr, Brian Kim and Zion Fletcher for their last home game with the Tigers.
Opelika started the game off strong, tallying a double-digit lead before Auburn could score its first point. The Bulldogs managed to handle the Tigers easily in the first half before the Tigers came out blazing in the second half.
“I just told them [at halftime) that they need to play together. If you’re not willing to play team basketball, if you wanna do individual stuff, I want them to stay in that gym next door,” said Auburn head coach Chris Brandt.
Brandt’s halftime talk inspired Auburn to come out and push for its first lead of the game with a 14-2 run, during which the Tigers did not miss a shot. Once the Tigers took the lead, they never looked back, outscoring Opelika by 18 points in the second half through the help of efficient scoring and physical defense.
“We were very unselfish and we were hitting the open person,” Brandt said. “I thought our defense was excellent tonight, for the most part. Opelika has got a heck of a team and I knew they were going to come after us, and that is what they did.”
Forward Griffin McLean led the Tigers with 13 points. Tabari Allen, who had a double-double in the first matchup against Opelika, tallied 11 points and led the team with six rebounds.
Wing Isaiah Knight led Opelika with 20 points and made three steals on defense. Forward Mekhiron Brock nearly had a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Auburn’s second-half comeback was aided by the energetic crowd, which cheered from buzzer to buzzer. Brandt said the crowd has been this way all season and hopes they can bring it again when tournament time comes.
“I’m just glad that we were able to make that comeback. Hopefully, we will bring everybody for when we play in the area tournament, because that is what we are going to need,” Brandt said.
Auburn ends regional play on a strong note with the sweep of Opelika. The Tigers improve to 21-3 on the season and 5-1 in area play with the win. They have two games left in the regular season before starting the area tournament. The win also marks the most wins in the regular season under Brandt.
Auburn travels to Loachapoka on Tuesday before traveling to Tallassee on Saturday, Feb. 4, for the last game of the regular season.
(Editor’s Note: Correction: The article was updated to indicate that Griffin McLean scored 13 points for the Tigers.)
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