Austin’s 3 spree downs Tigers

Published 3:15 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

In traffic, with a hand in the face, it just didn’t matter for Austin, the shots kept falling, especially at the right moment.

The Packers hit 15 3-pointers against Albert Lea Friday at Albert Lea High School and pulled away late in the second half via the 3-pointer for a 69-59 victory.

The 3s came from all over the court and at any time during a possession as Austin (11-11, 8-9 Big Nine) rallied from a five-point second half deficit in front of a raucous crowd.

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“The second half we kind of banked on that they wouldn’t shoot as hot as they did in the first half,” said Tigers head coach Lucas Kreuscher. “They really didn’t until late in the second half.”

The Packers made eight 3s in the first half and took a five-point lead at halftime. Austin senior Connor Gunderson led the way. Gunderson scored 24 points and made six 3-pointers. Senior T.J. Fritz and junior Matt Duren each hit four 3-pointers as Fritz finished with 19 points and Duren 13 points.

Fans couldn’t ask for much of a better atmosphere for the rivalry game and it helped that the teams played a competitive game the last time. The Tigers (3-18, 1-14) lost by nine to the Packers earlier in the season despite leading by eight at halftime and both student sections gave the gym an electric atmosphere.

“There’s not too many games in my career where there’s games like this,” said Albert Lea senior Colby Strilaeff. “It was a lot of fun playing.”

The Tigers and Austin battled throughout and had six lead changes in the second half, but Albert Lea couldn’t overcome the Packers 3-point shooting.

Austin stayed patient in the halfcourt and moved the ball around until it caught the Tigers sagging in its 2-3 zone.

Albert Lea led until 6:33 remained in the game when Duren hit one of his four 3-pointers to give the Packers a 51-49 lead.

Aaron Klatt hit a jumper on the other end to tie the game and Duren went to the line on Austin’s next possession.

Then the Austin had a less conventional three-point play. Duren made his first free throw to take a 52-51 lead with less than five minutes to play, but missed his second. Jake Brehmer grabbed the rebound and made a layup to make it a 54-51 game.

The Packers outscored Albert Lea 11-5 during the next three minutes. Joey Swatfager’s lone 3-point field goal fittingly signaled the end for the Tigers when he gave Austin a 65-56 lead with 1:43 to play.

“We played with them until the end, they just kept making their shots,” said Albert Lea junior Alik Smed.

Strilaeff led Albert Lea with 23 points and had three 3-pointers of his own. Damian Montes scored 13 points and helped shoulder some of the offensive workload.

The Tigers trailed 33-28 at halftime but opened the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 39-35 lead on a layup from Montes. During that stretch Albert Lea had a chance to take control and stretched the lead to five with 10:21 left to play. Gunderson and Duren hit back-to-back 3s and Austin had a 45-44 lead.

Albert Lea played one of its better games defensively and limited the Packers to one shot in the halfcourt for most of the game, however, a lot of Austin’s shots were falling.

Austin 69, Albert Lea 59

Austin 33 36 — 69

Albert Lea 28 31 — 59

Austin scoring: Connor Gunderson 24, T.J. Fritz 19, Matt Duren 13, Jake Brehmer 6, Joey Swatfager 3, Tim Erickson 2, Jamaal Gibson 2.

Albert Lea scoring: Colby Strilaeff 23, Damian Montes 13, Alik Smed 9, Aaron Klatt 7, Kyle Ooms 5, Silas Randall 2.