A game pitting the state¹s second-best scoring offense against the state¹s
second best-scoring defense was bound to go down to the wire.
Tuesday night at East Gym, it went beyond the wire.
Austin nailed clutch free throws in the extra session to win a key Big Nine
Conference matchup 70-58 over Mankato East, even after a thrilling
half-court shot from East¹s Brandon Kowalski that sent the game to overtime.
The Cougars were determined to have a better showing than the last time they
faced the Packers ‹ an 82-73 loss last month ‹ and they came out and put
together a good start.
Senior forward Brody Ziegler collected a couple of steals and Kowalski
nailed a three as East built a 12-5 lead.
Austin countered with a 12-3 run with the help of two 3-pointers from junior
center Joe Aase to give Austin a 17-15 advantage. The all Big-9 performer
hit five 3s en route to 24 points along with eight rebounds.
While Aase was making his outside shots for Austin, the Cougars were
struggling with theirs. They attempted 34 shots from behind the arc and only
seven went in (20.6 percent).
³We had some good looks at 3s,² East head coach Joe Madson said. ³We¹ve got
good shooters. They just weren¹t going in tonight, unfortunately.²
The game remained tight until Austin started pulling away, leading 50-42
with just over three minutes remaining.
The Cougars pulled within one at 52-51 with a minute and a half to go and
got some help from the Packers as they missed three straight 1-and-1
opportunities from the free throw line. Austin¹s Zach Wessels managed to
make a pair after a steal to make it 54-51 with 12 seconds left.
After an East timeout, Brett Olson missed a 3 from the corner and the
rebound ricocheted past half court where Brandon Kowalski ran down the ball,
looked at the clock, heaved it from half court and swished through the net
as time expired.
³I looked at the clock and there wasn¹t much time, so I¹m like, might as
well hope for the best and launched it up,² Kowalski said. ³It felt good
right away and, like you saw, hit nothing but net.²
The momentum didn¹t carry over for East in the extra session as Austin
scored the first seven points and sank 10 of 12 free throw attempts to come
away with the victory.
The loss drops East to 12-3 overall and 6-3 in the conference. They will
play again Friday night when they host Rochester Century.