No. 2 Packers clamp down on No. 7 ranked Cougars

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Austin boys basketball team has put on a parade of highlight dunks and offensive explosions early on this season, but it was their stingy defense that kept them unbeaten and atop the Big Nine standings against No. 7 ranked Mankato East in Packer Gym Tuesday night.

The No. 2 ranked Packers held a high-scoring East team in check over the last five minutes as they beat the Cougars 81-74.

East (10-1 overall, 7-1 Big Nine) held a 69-64 lead late in the game, but Austin used its defensive pressure to hold the Cougars to just five points in the last five minutes. The Packers took the lead for good when Medi Obang, who had been struggling from the field, hit a corner three-pointer on an assist from Duoth Gach to make it 72-71 Austin and Gach collected a steal off the in-bounds and found Obang for a lay-up to make it 74-71 Austin.

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“We were both undefeated and we had to make a point. We had to get those defensive stops and we got the ‘W,’” said Gach, who finished with 20 points and six steals. “I just told [Medi] to keep shooting and he got it. That last three got him going.”

Austin (11-0 overall, 8-0 Big Nine) never trailed again and Nyagoa Obany, who had nine points and seven rebounds, iced the game when he hit two free throws to make it 77-71 with 28.2 seconds left. The Cougars were starting to get out and run free in transition in the second half until Moses Issa changed that one with a couple of athletic blocks on breakaway lay-ups by East.

Austin’s Duoth Gach drives around Mankato East’s Uhana Ochan during the first half in Packer Gym Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/

“[Those blocks] got the crowd going and it gets my teammates fired up,” Issa said. “We weren’t really in our spots in the first half and at halftime coach corrected us. We made those changes at the right time and it paid off.”

The Packers led throughout much of the first half, but East scored nine straight points to start the second half and it was an up-hill battle for much of the second half for Austin. Tate Hebrink hit a key three-pointer to cut East’s lead to 59-58 and Each scored six straight to give Austin a brief 64-63 lead.

Dongrin Deng gave Austin a big boost off the bench as he scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half.

Austin head coach Kris Fadness was hoping for a more complete defensive effort from his team.

Austin’s Nyagoa Obany with the hard drive in the second half against Mankato East in Packer Gym Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/

“We let them drive in and get lay-ups about four or five times and I wasn’t happy for much of the game, but that was the best team we’ve played so far as far as having athletes,” Fadness said. “Give East credit, I thought they played well and I thought Damani Hayes was a force for them. We beat a pretty good team.”

Fadness did like the maturity that Obang showed by making the biggest shot of the night just moments after he had missed a big three-point attempt.

“I’m really proud of Medi,” Fadness said. “He struggled the whole game and he made a couple of plays late. That was huge. He had just missed a three before he made that last one.”

Austin will play at Rochester Mayo Thursday at 7:30 p.m. before hosting Rochester John Marshall Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The JM game is already sold out.

“We’ve got a target on our backs now that we’re first in the conference. Every game is important,” Issa said.

Austin’s Medi Obang with the inside run in the first half against Mankato East in Packer Gym Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/

East 33  41    74

Austin 38  43    81

Austin scoring: Duoth Gach, 20; Dongrin Deng, 15; Tate Hebrink, 10; Moses Issa, 10; Nyagoa Obany, 9; Medi Obang, 6; Ngor Deng, 5; Agwa Obang, 3; Logan Braaten, 2; free throws: 74 percent (20-27); rebounds: 30 (Obany, 7); turnovers: 9

Austin’s Tate Hebrink with the running jumper in the first half against Mankato East in Packer Gym Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/