Austin's Zach Wessels gets pumped up after hitting a three-pointer against Mankato East in the first half Tuesday night in Packer Gym. - Eric Johnson/

Packers knock off No. 3 Cougars

Published 11:22pm Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Packers played without fear as they took Mankato East’s best shot and held on to win 82-73 in a boys basketball game in Packer Gym Tuesday.

Austin led by as many as 20 in the second half, but the No. 3 ranked Cougars (4-1 overall, 2-1 Big Nine) pulled to within 77-73 when Brandon Kowalski hit a pull-up three pointer with 52.7 seconds left. The Packers (3-2 overall, 2-1 Big Nine) held on when Nate Schwab hit one of two free throws and Bret Lukes hit two free throws to close the door.

“I felt like we were battling obstacles the whole game,” Austin head coach Kris Fadness said. “There was a stretch in the second half were a foul was called on us every time down the court for six or seven possessions. That’s tough to weather and then they got confidence and everything seemed to be going in. They brought an onslaught on us.”

Austin's Goliath Oboyo vies for a rebound against Mankato East's Brody Ziegler during the first half Tuesday night in Packer Gym. - Eric Johnson/

Sophomore Zach Wessels carried the load for Austin, which played much of the night without junior big men Joe Aase, who had seven points, and Tom Aase, who had 15 points, four rebounds and two blocks.

Wessels finished with 29 points on 11-of-20 shooting, while compiling three assists, four steals and five rebounds. He hit a key pull-up jump shot to make it 69-58 and with 4:51 left in the game and he converted an up-and-under move for a score to make 73-66 with 2:30 left in the game.

“If he doesn’t play like that, we don’t win that game,” Fadness said of Wessels. “He handled the ball well, he made big shots and he had an outstanding game. His energy was great, he really was a nice floor leader for us and he did a little bit of everything.”

Wessels, a 6-1 point guard, did a lot of his damage inside, despite the fact that the Cougars featured four players that were 6-4 or taller.

“I’ve been practicing inside a lot and I just showed it tonight. It felt great. (Nate) Schwab and Tom did a great job of passing to me,” Wessels said. “We just really wanted to win this one. We had a big loss (at Rochester Mayo) last Friday and we wanted to come out with energy and just play good.”

Schwab, a senior guard, came up big for the Packers as he finished with 13 points and four rebounds while helping out inside.

“It felt good to finally get in there and start making some shots after not starting out so hot,” Schwab said. “They were ranked third in the state, but rankings don’t mean anything. It’s all about the ‘W’ and that’s what we got.”

Austin got its press going early in the game as they used an 18-0 run over a five minute span to take a 35-19 lead. The game turned into a track meet during the spurt as Goliath Oboyo and Wessels got free for a couple of breakaways and Tom Aase and Collin Weisert each hit key threes.

Ryan Larson pivots around Mankato East's Taylor Hayenga during the first half Tuesday night in Packer Gym. - Eric Johnson/

While knocking off the No. 3 team in the state is a big lift, Wessels said the team still has a lot of work ahead of it.

“It’s a good start for what we hope is a big year. But it’s still just a start,” he said.

Austin will host ‘jam the gym’ night, which is sponsored by HyVee against Red Wing Thursday. The first 300 fans will get a free hot dog and chips. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.

Mankato East 26 47 — 73

Austin 40 42 — 82

Austin scoring: Zach Wessels, 29; Tom Aase, 15; Nate Schwab, 13; Joe Aase, 7; Goliath Oboyo, 7; Collin Weisert, 6; Bret Lukes, 5; field goals: 42 percent (26-for-72); three-pointers: 33 percent (6-for-18); free throws: 75 percent (24-for-32); rebounds: 26 (Wessels, 5); turnovers: 12

East scoring: Brody Ziegler, 24; Brett Olson, 20; Taylor Heayenga, 13; Brandon Kowalski, 9; Aron Peterson, 5; Brandon Adema, 2; field goals: 36 percnt (26-for-72); three-pointers: 30 percent (6-for-20); free throws: 71 percent (27-for-38) rebounds: 29 (Ziegler, 7); turnovers: 18


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