The Austin Packers boys basketball team, the No. 11 team in the state in Class AAA in the latest poll from the Minnesota Basketball News played host to the Mankato East Cougars, the No. 7 team in Class AAA the latest poll in front of a near-capacity crowd at Packer Gym Friday night, and on a night where the latest inductees into the Austin High School Athletic Hall of Fame were honored in a ceremony at halftime, the Packers mounted a spirited comeback from a deficit as large as 28 points, but the Cougars were able to fend off the rally to win 88-78.
Mankato East came ready to play Friday night as between drives to the basket for points by guards Brogan Madson and Dwayne Bryant, the outside shooting of 6’6″ junior Carson Schweim and freshman guard Lucas Gustafson, who combined for six of the seven 3-pointers for the Cougars in the first half, and a suffocating man-to-man defense that forced 10 Austin turnovers in the first half and 22 for the game, East bolted out to a 13-1 lead and held the Packers without a field goal for the first 4:15 of the game. The Cougars continued to use that formula to push their lead to as large as 28 at 47-19, but the Packers showed that they would not go quietly into the night as they roared back with a 13-0 run toward the end of the half to cut the deficit to 47-32, and the Cougars wound up leading by 16 at the half at 55-39.
Austin continued their late first half momentum into the start of the second half as led by the scoring of senior guard Ater Manyuon and senior forward Buai Duop, the Packers opened the half on a 13-2 run as a bucket by Duop trimmed the East lead to 57-52 with over 13:00 left. The Cougars, though, were able to fend off the rally as they answered back out of a timeout with a 13-3 run of their own to push their lead back to 15 points at 70-55, and the closest the Packers would get the rest of the way was eight points at 78-70 as the Cougars were able to do just enough from the free throw line down the stretch to pull out the win.
Ater Manyuon led the Packers in scoring Friday night with 27 points, 18 of those in the second half, Buai Duop was also in double figures in scoring for Austin with 15 points, nine of those in the second half, Manny Guy tallied 11 points and Jacob Herrick drained a pair of 3’s on his way to 10 points to also finish in double figures in scoring. Senior guard Jack Lang finished with eight points, Ben Diang and Isaac Osgood both scored three points, and senior guard A’Triel Terry added two points in the loss Friday night. Carson Schweim wound up drilling six 3-pointers, the majority of them from NBA range for Mankato East, and he led all scorers with 30 points.
Austin is now 10-5 overall and 8-3 in the Big 9 Conference, and the Packers will finish up a three-game homestand next Tuesday night versus the Mankato West Scarlets, with the varsity tip-off at 7:30 p.m. that evening.