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Slow start hurts Rockets

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Austin's Tom Aase breaks around John Marshall's Aaron Grad Thursday in Austin.
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AUSTIN — It proved to be too big a deficit to overcome.

Austin built a lead as big as 17 points in the first half and early in the second half and held on to defeat Rochester John Marshall 80-77 on Thursday in a Big Nine Conference boys basketball showdown.

Both teams entered the game 7-0 in league play and Austin was unbeaten overall and ranked second in the state in Class AAA.

The Packers (14-0), a state entrant a year ago, have played in many big games the last couple of years, and the Packers were unfazed by the big crowd and loud gym while getting off to a hot start. The Rockets seemed to take a bit longer to adjust to the setting.

"We just dug too big a hole in the first half," JM first-year coach Kirk Thompson said.

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Forward Joe Aase and guard Zach Wessels led the way for Austin. The pair combined for 32 points in the first half as Austin surged to a 46-32 lead at the break.

Austin shot lights out, hitting 17 of 30 shots in the half, and forced nine of JM's 11 turnovers in the half.

"It didn't help us that we had more turnovers in the first half," JM junior forward Kyle Dahlstrom said. "We took better care of the ball in the second half."

JM guard Deonte Moore also drained a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the half to give the Rockets some momentum. Austin continued to play well most of the way, but could never put the feisty Rockets away.

"Our kids never quit," Thompson said. "They kept playing hard; they kept battling."

Both teams seemed to have a great deal of respect for the other.

"I give Kirk and their kids a lot of credit," Austin coach Kris Fadness said. "They wore us down."

Aase and Wessels proved to be too much for the Rockets and the pair had plenty of support. Aase tallied a career-high 34 points and the 6-8 forward was deadly from long range. He made 8 of 12 3-point attempts and set the all-time school scoring record in the game. Wessels had 23 points.

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"They were hitting their shots outside," Dahlstrom said. "You just try to do the best you can."

"Austin is a real solid team," Thompson said. "They just shot the ball fantastic. They've got good ballplayers."

The Rockets were limited for part of the game as their top scorer, John Mattison, was in foul trouble much of the second half. He still led the team with 17 points, six below his average.

"John Mattison was in foul trouble, but you have to learn to play through those games and that adversity," Thompson said. "We had some other guys step up."

Aaron Grad chipped in with 16 points for JM, Dahlstrom had 14 and 6-9 center Ngor Barnaba had eight points and nine rebounds.

The Packers were able to maintain a double-figure lead much of the second half. The Rockets managed to get the margin to seven with a minute to play, but no closer with the game still in doubt.

"We hit some big shots when they were making their run," Fadness said.

JM (12-3, 7-1 Big Nine) hit buckets with seven and two seconds to play to bring the final margin to three.

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Austin 80, John Marshall 77

JOHN MARSHALL (77)

Aaron Grad 16, Kyle Gossman 2, Emerson Gonyea 0, John Mattison 17, Deonte Moore 7, Kyle Dahlstrom 14, Michael Hurt 4, Mike Bosshart 9, Ngor Barnaba 8.

Other stats:32-68 FG; 38 team rebounds; 11 turnovers; Dahlstrom 7 rebounds; Barnaba 9 rebounds; Moore 6 rebounds.

AUSTIN (80)

Collin Weisert 0, Ajuda Nywesh 12, Bret Lukes 6, Zach Wessels 23, Tommy Olmsted 0, Joe Aase 34, Tom Aase 5, Gach Gach 0.

Other stats:28-52 FG; 30 team rebounds; 11 turnovers; T.Aase 10 rebounds, 3 blocks; J.Aase 6 rebounds.

Halftime:AUS 46, JM 32.

Free throws:JM 3-7, AUS 13-18.

Three-point goals:JM 6 (Grad 2, Mattison 2, Moore 1, Bosshart 1), AUS 11 (Nywesh 2, Wessels 1, J.Aase 8).

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