Pack shares Big 9 title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The Austin girls' basketball team won its first Big Nine Conference title since 1978 by beating Mankato West, 71-54, Friday night in both teams' regular-season finale at Mankato.

The Packers, ranked fifth in Class AAA in the final poll, will have to share the crown with Rochester Mayo, who also won on Friday to finish the Big Nine season at 14-4. Austin and Mayo split their regular-season meetings.

"It's a major accomplishment for this group of girls," said AHS coach Gary Peterson. "I'm really proud of them. It was a tough race. Every game has been huge."

Email newsletter signup

The Big Nine title was still up in the air two weeks ago as five teams were within one game of the lead. Austin won seven of its last eight games to make sure that when the field thinned out, the Packers were still at the top.

"These girls deserve it," Peterson said. "We talked at the beginning of the year and this was one of their goals. We're working on accomplishing our goals one at a time."

The Packers' next goal may include a trip to the state tournament, but that piece of history will have to follow three Section 1AAA wins. Austin hosts eighth-seeded Farmington Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the first round.

"Anything can happen at section time, you've just got to be ready to play," Peterson said. "At least, no matter what happens, we have the Big Nine title."

Austin scored more than 70 points for just the third time this season to combat a Mankato West squad as hot as any in the conference. West upended Faribault on Thursday night and tried to keep the upsets going at home Friday.

The Packers made a 10-4 run to end the second quarter and go ahead 32-26 at half, and a 23-point outburst by Austin opened the lead after three periods. Lisa Bue scored 11 of her game-high 26 points in the third, spurred by three three-pointers.

"We played much better in the second half after we got the nerves out," Peterson said. "Because of the pressure, the girls were emotionally drained, even at the start of the game. But we increased our defensive intensity in the third quarter and got going."

The Packers put West away with a slow-down offense in the fourth quarter, netting enough free-throws down the stretch to seal the win.

Amy Kelly added 15 points to the Packer victory, and Steph Eslinger chipped in 11. Bue pulled down a team-leading nine rebounds with Brittney Erichson nabbing seven, and Kelly and Laura Geffert getting six each.

Austin made just nine turnovers in the title-clinching win.


AUSTIN (71) -- Caitlin Jurgensen 7, Brittney Erichson 4, Amy Kelly 15, Steph Eslinger 11, Lisa Bue 26, Laura Geffert 8, Keri Feller 0, Kelly Momsen 0, Nicole Turvey 0.

MANKATO WEST (54) -- Mackenzie Consoer 10, Nicole Kenne 23, Chloe Quirk 8, Molly Bohrer 2, Ginette Miller 3, Katie Meyer 0, Jena Kozitza 4, Alissa Janken 2, Katie Vavra 2.



Free-throws--Austin 11-17, West 5-8.

Three-pointers--Austin 4 (Bue 4); West 3 (Kenne 3).

Rebounds--Austin 39 (Bue 9, Erichson 7); West 31 (Consoer 10).

Fouled out--Quirk.