3Peat: Packers blow past Wingers to get to state

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 8, 2014

ROCHESTER — The Packers are headed back to the Class AAA state boys basketball tournament and there was no drama this time.

After winning the Section 1AAA title game on a buzzer beating alley-lop two years ago and winning the big game in an overtime contest last year, Austin made it a little easier on their fans Friday night in Mayo Civic Center.

The top-seeded and fourth-ranked Packers trailed just once early in the contest as they used a huge second half rally to blow past Red Wing 55-34.

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The Wingers (19-9 overall) used a 9-0 run to close the first half, but Austin junior Gach Gach turned the tide in the second half. Gach scored seven points during a 10-0 Austin run to open the frame. Gach, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, hit two 3-pointers in the win and he also had his fair share of finishes inside.

“We wanted to close them out right away in the second half,” Gach said. “Last year they took us to overtime, and we didn’t want that same outcome. We came out strong and got a big lead.”

Austin’s run saw plenty of offense, but its defense made some big plays as well. Curtis Oberbroeckling stepped up and drew a charge on Ty Buck and Zach Wessels converted a layup off a steal by Gach during the rally.

Austin forced 15 turnovers in the win and the perimeter orientated Wingers didn’t hit one 3-pointer on the night.

“We knew we could ‘D’ them up,” said Wessels, who had 14 points. “Our defense stepped up tonight and played well.”

Austin (26-3 overall) has always had trouble with its shooting in the past at Mayo Civic Center, but Friday night was a different story. Bret Lukes drilled a pull-up 3-pointer early in the game and he went on to score 15 points in the win. He put in the final dagger when he knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 47-30 Austin lead with 6:25 left in the game.

Lukes had struggled shooting in the Civic Center in previous years, so he changed his warm-up routine and it worked out for him. He said getting back to state for a third time is a great feeling.

“I just don’t think as many people thought we could do it this year. We proved it to everybody,” Lukes said. “We’re right exactly where we want to be. We’re playing our best ball right now.”

Austin head coach Kris Fadness credited his seniors for leading the way this season. He said their impact was felt by the whole program.

“Our seniors our pretty special. The leadership has been outstanding. They know how to win and they compete every night,” Fadness said. “I know it’s got some of the younger kids coming through the system jacked about Packer basketball and I’m happy about that. Unfortunately it’s going to make my decisions tougher down the road.”

Austin led 24-10 early in the first half before the Wingers went on their big run. The Packers were still getting good looks, but they went cold as they didn’t score in the last five minutes of the first half.

“It was more frustration about how we ended that first half,” Fadness said. “[Zach] Coffey gave us a great energy and we went with that four guard lineup and Gach and we jumped out to the lead. I was disappointed with how we closed the half, but that’s basketball.”

Austin, the No. 2 seed of the tournament, will open the Class AAA state tournament Wednesday against Alexandria at 2 p.m. at Williams Arena.

“We know the state quarter game is a one-and-done if you don’t win it,” Fadness said. “We want to go up there and win it.”

RW 19 15 — 34

Austin 24 31 — 55

Austin scoring: Bret Lukes, 15; Gach Gach, 14; Zach Wessels, 14; Ajdua Nywesh, 10; Curtis Oberbroeckling, 1; Jacob Kempen, 1; free throws: 77 percent (17-for-22); rebounds: 26 (Gach, 11); turnovers: 9