Prep basketball: Auburn, Boylan to face off for NIC-10 supremacy

February 25, 2014
Antoine Pittman of Auburn rises up over two Guilford defenders for a jump shot. The junior had 7 points in a 96-76 win. (Photo by Matt Nestor)

By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter

The moment of truth has arrived, and the NIC-10 schedule-makers got exactly what they would have hoped for when the 2013-14 conference schedules were made.
Rockford Auburn and Rockford Boylan Catholic both sit with conference records of 13-2 as they enter their final conference game of the season. That game just happens to be on Friday, Feb. 28, at Auburn High School with the conference title on the line.

Both teams have given impressive performances over the conference season. Boylan lost an early-season match-up with Rockton Hononegah, and then was shocked against Belvidere North.
There were some other close calls along the way. But behind likely conference MVP Brock Stull, the Titans have navigated so many tough match-ups, winning at Hononegah and sweeping Belvidere and Rockford East along the way.

The Knights have been equally impressive. They lost the first match-up at Boylan earlier in the year, and recently dropped a game against East at Rock Valley College.
But other than those two games, Auburn has nary had a scare in conference. Maybe a tight half here and there, but all in all, fairly smooth sailing for Auburn.
Auburn will have the motivation going in to the game. Conference title, on their home floor, avenging an earlier loss and trying to gain some confidence after getting skipped over by Boylan for the top seed in the Boylan regional. On the floor, both teams have their advantages.

For Auburn, they have the best point guard in the conference in junior Laytwan Porter. They pair him up with Antoine Pittman, Phil Trammell, Malik Minor and a host of other players.
The Knights are deep at guard. They also have shooters all over the floor around Porter. They play their best when Porter is creating and finding open shots for his teammates.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Knights want to run. They will pressure, either in the half court or full court. They will trap in spots. A big part of their offense is applying pressure and causing turnovers for easy points.

The Titans will have the best player on the floor. Stull will be playing Division I basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee next year, and he has continuously shown why all year.
His ability to shoot is a big plus for the Titans. But, he has done just as well creating plays for his teammates off the dribble and taking advantage of the attention opposing defenses give him.
Defensively, the Titans are really starting to mix up their looks and have become adept at creating turnovers, which leads to easy baskets. Demry Croft has been great on the defensive end, blocking shots and using his length for deflections.

This match-up also causes problems for both teams. Boylan has struggled at point guard this year, and the Auburn pressure could spell doom.
But the Knights also have no size. In the first game, Boylan pounded Auburn on the boards, which was as big a factor as any in the final outcome.

When all is said and done, this should be a great game, and could be the fuel for what is to come. Both teams are in the Boylan regional the following week, and if the seeds hold, they would face off in a regional final a week later. The winner will enter with confidence — and the loser will go in with motivation.

From the Feb. 26-March 4, 2014 issue

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