By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
It’s long been said that when Mankato East and Mankato West play each other — in any sport — you can throw out the records, meaning either team can win
That’s never been more true that Tuesday night at the East gym.
“This is our best win this season, no question,” Mankato East boys basketball coach Joe Madson said. “It should give us an emotional launch as we get to the end of the year. There’s a good chance we could see these guys again in the playoffs.”
East came into the game with only five victories in 23 games, but 21 points from Yasin Omar and a strong rebounding effort produced a 46-44 victory over West in the Big Nine Conference game.
It wasn’t a game that will have songwriters romanticizing the action; it was more graffiti than Picasso.
But it was a physical, intense game, a per usual in the crosstown series.
“We played with a lot of energy, and everyone played well,” Omar said. “We hit some big shots. We were really confident.”
West won the first game against East this season 56-45, but Omar said his team felt like it could win the rematch.
“We just kept fighting,” he said. “We didn’t give up.”
East led early, then West answered with a 9-2 run that made it 16-12 with 4 minutes remaining in the half. Brandon Adema’s three-point play, and a 3-pointer by Brock Margenthaler pushed the Cougars back on top, and it stayed that way until halftime, with East up 23-22.
Omar had eight points, making two 3-pointers, during a 10-point burst by East early in the second half to go up 38-29 with 11:15 to play.
The Scarlets closed to within three with seven minutes to play, then within two at the 2:30 mark. But neither team scored after that.West had a final 3-point attempt hit the back rim and bounce out.
“We were patient and got a lot of good shots,” West coach Tom Boone said. “We had some opportunities at the free-throw line; shooting (9 of 15) in a tight game like this isn’t good enough. We had the right people shooting the right shots; they just didn’t go in.”
Omar hit five 3-pointers, three in the second half. Brandon Adema had seven points and 13 rebounds, helping the Cougars to a 33-29 rebounding advantage. East had 11 offensive rebounds.
“(The first time we played them), we didn’t do a good job of recognizing their players and what their strengths were,” Madson said. “Tonight, we were cognizant of who was out there and what they could do.”
Dale finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, and Austin Majeskie scored 10 points for the Scarlets.
West (13-9, 10-6 in Big Nine) hosts Owatonna on Friday, while the Cougars (6-18, 5-11) play at Faribault on Friday.