End of the road: Austin grads Hebrink and Gach have been teammates for a long time

Published 3:19 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023

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The bond between teammates is a special one, especially when those teammates helped push their high school program to an elite level and then went on to find each other again in college.

Austin grads Tate Hebrink and Duoth Gach were side by side against some of the best players in the nation during their time with the Packers and now they’re finishing off their college careers together at Valley City State University in North Dakota this season.

The Vikings are set to play Mayville State University in the conference semifinals at 6 p.m. Saturday in Watertown, South Dakota and if they fall short, it will likely be the last time Hebrink and Gach play on the same team in an organized game.

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“It’s been fun, for sure,” Hebrink said. “Duoth’s my best friend and we’ve grown on and off the court together for pretty much our whole lives. He’s a helluva basketball player who can shoot and score. And it’s always nice to have him as a point guard.”

Hebrink and Gach started playing together at the youth level and went on to lead the Packers to two state tournaments and a runner-up finish. After high school, Hebrink went to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for a season before transferring to VCSU. Gach went to North Dakota State College of Science, where he was Mon-Dak player of the year as a sophomore. Gach took a year off of basketball before transferring to VCSU last year.

“Basketball taught me how to be a man. You have to grow up quickly, but you have to learn accountability,” Gach said. “You have to be ready at all times. There are going to be better teams that you’re going to have to go against.”

The Austin grads have both been fixtures in the starting lineup for VCSU this season. Gach has averaged 11.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game for the Vikings, while Hebrink has averaged 7.3 points per game, with a 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.

After this season, Hebrink is planning on coming to back to Austin, with the hopes of landing a job as a physical education teacher and Gach is hoping to play overseas like his twin brother Both Gach, who is averaging 9.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for a pro team in Pristina, Kosovo.

Throughout their time on the court, both players have seen many different styles and approaches to the game of basketball. Hebrink, who grew up watching his mom Suzy Hebrink coach the Riverland Community College women’s basketball team, has certainly appreciated the opportunity.

“I’ve learned a lot and that will help me. I want to be a coach too and I’ve seen a lot of different styles of defenses and offenses. I think it all comes down to the players you have and what fits them and their skill sets best,” Hebrink said. “It’s been a long time and a lot of basketball. It’s taught me how to work hard, be disciplined, how to hold myself and others accountable for what they do.”

Gach has also relished his time on the court, and he and Hebrink still talk about the time that the Packers took down a Minnehaha boys basketball team that featured two current NBA players – Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren.

“They still took that L to the Packers, so I’ve got to hold it to them,” Gach said. “Tate and I have experienced different levels of competition and all of the friendships that come with it together.”

Hebrink was the one who made the game-winning lay-up against Minnehaha.

“We definitely still talk about that,” Hebrink said. “Being able to see that we beat them when they were younger is pretty cool.”

Former Austin head coach Kris Fadness helped develop Hebrink and Gach into college basketball players, but the duo also has a big appreciation for current head coach Jamaal Gibson, who has put in a lot of time over the years.

Both players were pleased to see Gibson leading the Packers this winter this season.

“Jamaal deserved the job because he put in so much time that goes unnoticed,” said Hebrink. “He always worked out with players during the summer and I was really happy when he was given the job.”

This is the second straight year that Hebrink and Gach will be playing in a conference semifinal with the Vikings and they are hoping to keep the run going as long as possible.

“We’re hoping to win it this year,”Gach said.

 VCSU also has a couple of Riverland grads in the lineup as Eddie Oyet is averaging 5.5 points per game and Cleveland Bedgood is averaging 6.1 points per game.