Packer boys handle Owatonna’s pressure in victory

Published 12:23 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Packers turned the tables on the Huskies.

While Owatonna is known for its full court press, Austin’s boys basketball team turned up the heat with its defense and forced 25 turnovers en route to a 72-64 win in the last home regular season game in Packer Gym Tuesday.

Austin had 15 turnovers, but it shot 53 percent from the field and very few of the turnovers led to any easy buckets for the Huskies.

“They’ve been running that (press) on us since fifth grade and we’ve always beaten it with T.J. (Fritz) and Jamaal (Gibson),” said Austin forward Connor Gunderson, who had 16 points, four steals and two blocked shots in the win. “T.J. just dribbles by it and if they try to double him, he finds the open guy and we get a lay-up on the break.”

The Packers (10-11 overall, 7-9 Big Nine) trailed by as many as seven in the first half, but Fritz hit a three and Gunderson scored on a lay-up on a dish from Fritz to make it a one-point Owatonna lead at the break.

Gunderson hit a three to trigger an 8-0 second half run that put the Packers up 38-34 with 14:52 left in the game and Austin never trailed again.

The Huskies (16-7, 11-4 Big Nine) pulled to within 48-43 with 9:21 left in the game on a jump-shot by Vaughn Thada.

That’s when Austin’s Tim Erickson took over.

The junior forward scored six points on drives to the hoop and hit two free throws during an 11-5 run Austin run that made it 59-48 with seven minutes left in the game.

“The difference in the game was Tim Erickson being able to make those plays,” Austin head coach Kris Fadness said. “I’m happy for him since he’s coming off a game where he didn’t play at the end and things weren’t going smoothly in the first half. It was nice to seem him have the confidence to come back.”

Erickson, who finished with 13 points, said he was motivated by Friday’s one-point loss to Mankato West and that the Packers ability to break the press gave him some good opportunities.

“I was looking to shoot a little more. The court was more wide open and that’s where I do well,” he said. “My drives were somehow getting through their defense.”

Owatonna pulled to within 64-60 with 2:18 left in the game after a put-back by Mike Sebring and Austin turned the ball over on its next possession. Jamaal Gibson, who scored seven and had three assists, came up with a steal and hit two free throws to make it 66-60 with 1:35 left in the game.

Gibson teamed up with Fritz, who finished with 15 points, four assists, and four steals, to help the Packers beat the Owatonna press all night.

“Jamaal and T.J. handled their pressure extremely well and got us into our offense,” Fadness said. “It was one of the better games that we’ve played.”

Thada scored 32 in the team’s first meeting of the season (a 62-60 Owatonna win), but the Packers contained him on Tuesday.

“We were more aware of him this time and knew we had to key on him,” Gunderson said.

Owatonna 31 33 — 64

Austin 30 42 — 72

Austin scoring: Connor Gunderson, 16; T.J. Fritz, 15; Tim Erickson, 13; Jacob Brehmer, 8; Jamaal Gibson, 7; Tom Aase, 5; Matt Duren, 5; Joey Swatfagger, 3; field goals: 53 percent (21-for-40); three-pointers: 33 percent (4-for-12); free throws: 70 percent (26-for-37); rebounds: 21 (Brehmer, 7); turnovers: 15

Owatonna scoring: Vauhgn Thada, 15; Mike Sebring, 14; Sheridan Skala, 11; Tyler Supalla, 10; Collin Wencl, 5; Mitch Hawkins, 3; Brian Wagner, 2; Matt Wagner, 2; field goals: 44 percent (21-for-48); three-pointers: 26 percent (4-for-15); free throws: 72 percent (18-for-25); rebounds: 29 (Sebring, 11); turnovers: 25