The boys basketball series between Mankato East and Mankato West has produced unlikely heroes over the years. In the last couple of seasons, it was a Brad Walsh 3-pointer that pushed West to victory, or Nate Kopischke making a key steal to help East win.

On Friday, Mankato East’s Andrew Ford, a 5-foot-11 reserve guard, who had his 36 minutes of basketball fame.

“That was real exciting,” Ford said. “To beat a good team like that was real exciting.”

Ford scored 15 points and had four rebounds as East defeated West 60-48 in a Big Nine Conference game in front of about 3,500 fans at Bresnan Arena. Ford’s offense was unexpected, given his directions from coach Joe Madson to give his full effort defending Scarlets’ guards Tommy Saffert and Bryce Brunz.

“I like that challenge,” Ford said. “I love playing defense. But I like to shoot, too.”

The defense was good early as it took nearly 13 minutes for the team to combine for 24 points. Chop Tang made consecutive jumpers to open the game, but Tommy Saffert’s 3-pointer and a post basket and free throw from Jeremy Henke helped the Scarlets pull even at 12.

Michael Olafson hit a pull-up baseline jumper that helped the Cougars finish the half on a 16-5 run, capped by seven straight points by Ford, who nailed a 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining. Landon Benson finished the half with 11 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.

“We know (Ford) can score,” Madson said. “Shooting the 3-pointer, that’s not his strength, but I don’t have any problem with him shooting them if he’s open. If he misses his first one, he usually stops for the night.”

East stretched the lead to 33-20 early in the second half before West made its best run. Brunz, J.J. Cattrysse and Saffert each made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 40-35. A couple of minutes later, Saffert struck again from 3-point range to make it 42-39.

However, Ford’s three-point play started a 10-point run to give East a more comfortable lead, and the Cougars made 6 of 6 free throws in the final 1:22 to secure the victory.

“This is so important to (Ford), he’s very serious about basketball,” Madson said. “This game should give him a lot of confidence.”

Benson finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Chop Tang added 10 points and nine boards. East was coming off its worst game of the season, a 53-40 loss to Rochester John Marshall, but Madson said the intensity of the city rivalry was enough to get his players focused.

“We knew we’d play hard, you just never know if you’ll make shots and execute,” Madson said. “I think the (loss to JM) probably woke us up. The kids didn’t get too low, we just knew we couldn’t let that happen again.”

Saffert scored 18 points, Henke added 11 and Brunz had 10 for the Scarlets, who were 8 of 25 from 3-point range.

“We didn’t get a few things going early,” West coach Tom Boone said. “But give (East) credit, they played well defensively. They hand their hands up and we couldn’t get many open looks.

“There were a lot of guys out there who were getting their first experience in (this atmosphere), and they played out of character. Hopefully, we’ll be better against them next time and take care of business.”

East (7-5, 4-3 in Big Nine) plays Friday at home against Albert Lea. West (8-3, 4-3) plays Friday at Rochester Mayo.



MANKATO WEST 48: Brunz 10, Saffert 18, J.J. Cattrysse 5, Knutson 0, Dobson 0, Haatvedt 0, Derrick Cattrysse 0, Jennings 3, Henke 11, Hasse 1, Sathoff 0, Schuldt 0. Totals: 18 4-11 48. West was 8 of 25 from 3-point range.

MANKATO EAST 60: Ford 15, Olafson 8, Ward 4, Pfeffer 0, Hage 0, Winter 5, Welter 0, Tang 10, Rivers 0, Cunningham 0, Frederick 0, Rykhus 0, Benson 18. Totals: 22 12-14 60. East was 4 of 12 from 3-point range.



Mankato West 17-31—48

Mankato East 28-32—60

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