The Austin Packers boys’ basketball team, the No. 1 seed in the Section 1AAA boys basketball tournament and ranked number nine in the state in Class AAA in the last AP poll played host to second-seeded Byron in the section championship game at Packer Gym Thursday night, and in a tense, hard-fought battle all game long, Bears senior guard Jake Braaten, a 1,000+ point scorer tallied 12 of his 15 points in the second half, including seven crucial points in the last 1:18 to lift the Bears past the Packers for the section title 52-50.
Austin led 25-22 at the half when guard Gage Manahan banked in a 3-pointer from just inside half court at the buzzer, and the Packers matched their biggest lead of the game of six points early in the second half when they led 31-25. From there, though, Austin went cold from the field as for the game, the Packers were 16 of 47 from the field for only 34%, and they were 7 of 23 from beyond the 3-point arc for 30% in the game. Byron also allowed Austin only one shot per possession, as the Bears outrebounded the Packers 26-13 for the game, including 25 defensive rebounds to Austin’s 11. Byron was able to take advantage on the offensive end as they went on a 19-6 run to take a 44-37 lead, their biggest of the game to that point. Austin, though, battled back with a 9-0 run of their own, capped off by two free throws by Okey Okey with 2:12 left to take a 46-44 lead. Braaten then stepped to the fore for Byron as the senior guard, who is averaging 21 points per game and is being considered for the Mr. Basketball award swished a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:18 left to give the Bears a 47-46 lead. After Austin missed a driving layup with :47 left, Byron claimed the rebound and junior guard Trent DeCook went to the foul line with the Bears in the bonus situation with :38 left. He hit one of two free throws for a 48-46 Byron lead, and on the enusing Austin possession, Braaten came up with a steal along the left sideline, drove downcourt, layed the ball in off the glass and drew a foul to give the Bears a 50-46 lead with :24 left. He missed the free throw, and a layup from Dieth Duop for Austin with :11 left cut the lead to 50-48. The Packers then used their last timeout, and on the ensuing inbounds pass, the Bears were able to get the ball to Braaten, who was fouled and swished both free throws in the one and one with :10.6 left to push Byron’s lead back to two possessions at 52-48. Gage Manahan scored on a layup with under five seconds left to cut the lead to 52-50, but with Austin out of timeouts, the clock ran out to give the Bears the win.
Teyghan Hovland led Austin offensively with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal, Okey Okey tallied 10 points, two rebounds, two of ten Packer steals in the game and an assist, Gage Manahan also scored 10 points and tallied two steals, Dieth Duop chipped in seven points and both of Austin’s blocked shots in the game, Kaden Murley scored four points, Cham Okey swished a 3-pointer in the second half for three points and Emmanuel Manyoun the leading average scorer for Austin who had been averaging almost 21 points per game was in foul trouble the entire game and finished with three points before fouling out with 2:30 to go.
Austin finishes a fantastic season with a record of 17-3, while Byron will head into the State Class AAA boys’ basketball tournament with a record of 17-2.