Packer girls snap losing streak with win over ScarletsPublished 11:15pm Monday, January 20, 2014
The Packers were riding a seven-game losing streak headed into their matchup with Mankato West in a girls basketball game in Ove Berven Gym Monday night. But you sure couldn’t tell it by watching them play.
Austin dominated on the boards and hustled on both ends of the court throughout the night as it beat the Scarlets 74-65 to snap their losing skid.
“I thought the kids battled and I can’t talk enough about their effort,” Austin head coach Todd Johnson said. “You would never guess with this group that they had lost seven games in a row. Their spirit and the pride they’re taking with what they’re doing is huge.”
Austin senior guard Merdieth Fritz spent much of the second half on the bench with foul trouble, but she made the time she did get count. Fritz came off the bench with Austin leading 54-49 and she came in hit a big 3-pointer from the wing to make it 57-49 with 6:41 left in the game.
Fritz added a put-back score that made it 59-49 and she came up with a steal and found Mer Gach for a break-away lay-up that make it 67-58 with 2:40 left in the game.
“You just want to make a difference when you come into the game and you want to make every minute count,” Fritz, who finished with seven points and five rebounds, said. “You’ve got to be in the game mind-set. Sometimes girls lose their head in the game, but you’ve just got to stay focused.”
Gach had another big game for the Packers (4-8 overall, 2-5 Big Nine) as she poured in 26 points and ripped down 17 rebounds. Gach said her team needed a win in the worst way after letting a few close ones get away during their losing streak.
“We wanted to break that streak,” Gach said. “We wanted to pull away, so it wouldn’t be intense or nerve racking at the end.”
The game was back and forth for most of the night as the Scarlets (5-8 overall, 4-4 Big Nine) leaned on the production of sophomore guard Lexi Schoper — who scored 29 points while making just five field goals.
Schoper was able to get to the free throw line early and often.
“She’s smart. She knows what to do,” Fritz said of Schoper. “She’s very tough to guard and she’ll get in your head. You’ve just got to play smart.”
Schoper did most of her damage on drives to the lane, so the Packers switched to a zone defense to contain her in the second half. Johnson wasn’t pleased with how many points she put up, but he was glad the Packers didn’t let any other Scarlets get in a rhythm.
“We were hoping to do a better job on [Schoper], but you’re not going to stop her,” Johnson said. “She got her points and we did a better job on their other kids.”
Austin got a scoring boost from Sydney Murphy, who had 15 points and Shayley Vesel, who added 16 points.
The Scarlets jumped out to an 8-2 lead to open the game, but Austin battled back to take a 10-8 lead and West never led by more than two after that point.
“We kind of dominated the boards and got their big kids in foul trouble,” Johnson said. “Mer took over the game and Merideth hit two big shots.”
West 33 32 — 65
Austin 33 41 — 74
Austin scoring: Mer Gach, 26; Shayley Vesel, 16; Sydney Murphy, 15; Merdieth Fritz, 7; Alex Hansen, 4; Tori Grev, 4; Amber Hansen, 2; free throws: 41 percent (12-for-29); rebounds: 46 (Gach, 17); turnovers: 10