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Cougars finish off Packers with clutch shooting

The No. 10 ranked Austin boys basketball team made a lot of clutch plays in a showdown with Mankato East, but the No. 2 ranked Cougars made a few more as they won 65-57 in Packer Gym to sweep the season series from Austin on Monday.

East (23-1 overall, 21-0 Big Nine), which has won 21 in a row and has clinched the Big Nine title, came up with two huge shots in the final stretch when Pal Kueth hit a base-line three to put the Cougars up 56-53 with 1:30 left and Joich Gong drilled a wing three to make it 59-53 with 45 seconds left.

Agwa Nywesh paced the Packers with 21 points, five rebounds and five assists.

“They’re a well composed team and they’re really well coached. I give props to coach (Joe) Madson,” Nywesh said of the Cougars. “They got the best of us. We’re just going to have to prepare for Albert Lea, get ready for sections and hope we see them again.”

Austin (20-5 overall, 16-5 Big Nine) trailed 38-28 with 13 minutes left in the game, but it rallied to tie the game at 47 when Okey Okey connected on a baseline three with four minutes left. Austin tied the game at 53 when Teyghan Hovland scored on a put-back with 2:05 left, but the Packers failed to take  the lead down the stretch.

“I thought we played with some heart and some fire. We got back in it and had a chance to take the lead. We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Austin head coach Kris Fadness said. “That’s basketball and that’s the game. They’re really good and you just can’t make mistakes against them. They’re an excellent defensive team and they made us work for every dang shot.”

Austin’s Lero Oman fights up a shot over Mankato East’s BJ Omot in Packer Gym Monday. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

The Packers led 10-4 to open the game, but the Cougars used a 15-4 burst to take a 29-23 late in the first half.

“I thought for the most part, we played pretty dang well,” Fadness said. “Boards hurt us, we had missed free throws and we lost guys on the baseline a few times, but they’re dang good. I thought we valued the ball and Agwa played extremely well. It’s hard to expect him to finish everything when he’s getting beat up out there.”

East is beating its opponents by 20 points per game, but both of its games against the Packers were decided by single digits. East beat Austin 58-52 on Jan. 20.

The Packers will close out their regular season in Albert Lea at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Tigers beat Austin 72-71 on Jan. 21.

Austin’s Victor idris finishes a jam as Mankato East’s Jordan Merseth looks on in Packer Gym Monday. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

East 29  36    65

Austin 25  32    57

Austin scoring: Agwa Nywesh, 21; Teyghan Hovland, 9; Okey Okey, 8; Moses Idris, 7; Victor Idris, 6; Lero Oman, 4; Pierre Lilly, 2; free throws: 56 percent (9-for-16); rebounds: 29; turnovers: 12

Austin’s Agwa Nywesh shoots over Mankato East’s Dom Bangu in Packer Gym Monday. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com