Tuesday night was expected to be a coronation for JaQuori McLaughlin and No. 5 Peninsula. The Seahawks and their Oregon State-bound senior needed a win in their final home game to take command of the Class 3A South Puget Sound League.
It didn’t go according to plan.
No. 7 Auburn Mountainview rode the hot shooting of Ryan Lacey and the stifling defense of Ki’Jan Weisinger to a 59-41 victory Tuesday night.
Now it’s Auburn Mountainview (18-1, 12-1 3A SPSL) who is in command. The Lions will clinch the title with either a home win Friday night against Enumclaw, or a Peninsula loss at Lakes.
The Lions won the game by containing McLaughlin, contesting all of his shots. McLaughlin finished with 16 points, and none of them came easy.
“We’ve got Ki’Jan Weisinger, one of the best lockdown defenders in the state in my opinion,” Lacey said. “He never gives up.”
Weisinger drew the defensive assignment on McLaughlin, sometimes in a true man-to-man and other times as the player tasked with shadowing McLaughlin in a box-and-one.
“All four years, since we were freshman, that’s all we’ve done: play against JaQuori, wanting to stop him,” Weisinger said.
It wasn’t just defense for the Lions senior guard. Weisinger hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter during a 13-0 scoring run which showed that the visiting Lions came to play. Auburn Mountainview had a 19-6 lead early in the second quarter.
“Knocking down wide open shots over their zone, that was one of the biggest things in the game,” said Weisinger, who finished with 10 points. “You gotta make them pay for playing a zone by making shots.”
Lacey scored 28 to lead all players — 19 in the second half alone — and went 5 for 8 on 3-pointers for the game. He often found himself wide open on the perimeter for uncontested 3-pointers.
“It was my teammates,” said Lacey, who is Auburn Mountainview’s all-time leading scorer. “They drove, made the defense collapse on them, and kicked it out.”
Peninsula (17-2, 11-2) split the season series with Auburn Mountainview — each team won on the road. The Seahawks were playing without 6-foot-9 starting center Jimmy Ritchie, who did not dress because of injury.
The Seahawks cut the deficit to four when McLaughlin hit a pull-up baseline jumper at the start of the fourth quarter, but Auburn Mountainview responded with nine consecutive points.
Peninsula tried to pull within two on an alley-oop pass, but Josh Keough missed the dunk and tried to rebound the ball while hanging on the rim for a technical foul.
Lacey made 1 of 2 free throws, drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing on the ensuing possession, and hit another 3-pointer the next time down the floor for seven consecutive points.