East Basketball

Mankato East forward Ken King drives to the basketball during the first half of play against Owatonna Tuesday at Mankato East High School.

It wasn’t hard to see just how much Sam Onsomu meant to the Mankato East boys basketball team Tuesday night in East gym.

The Cougars were down early to Big Nine Conference foe Owatonna, but kept the game close with the 6-foot-6 Onsomu matching up with the Huskies’ forwards.

But when the junior center had to sit for the last eight minutes of the first half due to foul trouble, the Huskies pulled away for good, dropping the Cougars 63-40.

“Having Sam out for the last eight minutes hurt us,” East coach Joe Madson said. “I think it was about a five-point game at that time and then it turned in a hurry.”

All five starters for the Huskies were taller than 6-0, including senior forwards Kyle Melcher and Taylor Steinbauer, who stand 6-7 and 6-8, respectively.

Onsomu was able to help keep both in check for awhile, but they went off as soon as Onsomu sat down.

Melcher finished with 11 points and five rebounds, and Steinbauer had a game-high 17 points and seven rebounds.

“Steinbauer and Melcher had field days,” Madson said. “When Sam got in foul trouble that really hurt.”

Earlier in the season when the two squads played in Owatonna, the Cougars lost 44-41. Foul trouble wasn’t an issue that night.

Shooting hurt the Cougars Tuesday, too, as they hit just 24.4 percent from the field.

“There’s no question they came at us with their size,” Madson said. “I think we surprised them the first time and they came after us. But it’s a recipe for bad play when you shoot like we did tonight.”

Owatonna started the game with a 12-2 run aided by a couple of 3-pointers from Adam Troy. The Cougars eased a bit closer. With Onsomu on the bench, Ken King scored eight straight points midway through the first half. King had 14 of East’s final 18 in the half, including a 5-of-8 effort from the free-throw line.

King also hit a half-court 3-pointer at the end of the first half, and the Huskies led 37-24 at the break.

“I just threw it up and was hoping it went in,” King said. “But our gameplan was to get their big guys in foul trouble and shoot well from the free-throw line.”

East went 16 for 19 from the free-throw line, compared to Owatonna’s 10-for-26 effort. Second-chance points were in the Huskies’ favor, though, outscoring the Cougars 17-2 in that category.

King never scored in the second first half, finishing with a team-high 14 and adding six rebounds. Alex Welter and Dustin Lemke had six points each. Lemke also had a team-high nine rebounds. Onsomu finished with five points and five rebounds.

East (4-20) finishes its regular season at Faribault Friday.

“We play better on the road than we do at home,” King said. “Hopefully we can get a win in our whites (away uniforms).”

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