The Austin Packers girls’ basketball team, the champions of Section 1AAA and the No. 4 seed in the south half of the State Class AAA bracket locked horns with No. 1 seed Hill-Murray in the state quarterfinals Tuesday evening at Rochester Mayo High School, and although a determined and gritty bunch of Packers battled the No. 1 team in the state in the last Class AAA poll from the opening tap to the final horn, a 14-0 first half run for the Pioneers gave them a lead they would not relinquish as they downed the Packers 60-47.
Austin took their first lead of the game, 4-2, with 13:07 left in the first half, and they were able to push their lead to six, 15-9, their largest of the night before Hill-Murray’s guard duo of Bella Hartzell and Lilli Mackley started to find the range from the outside as 3-pointers from Hartzell, Mackley, Evelyn Perkins and Maya Giese helped to key the 14-0 Pioneer run to give them their biggest lead of the night to that point at 26-15. A free throw from Hope Dudycha and a 3-pointer from Emma Dudycha at the first half buzzer cut Hill-Murray’s lead to 26-19 at halftime.
Although the 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer gave Austin some momentum heading into the second half, the Pioneers quickly took back that momentum by starting the second half on a 13-6 run to give them what would be their biggest lead of the game, 14 points at 39-25. The Packers, though, as they did all season refused to fold and battled their way back to as close as eight points, but the guard play of Hill-Murray held off the Austin charge as although the Packers almost completely shut down the Pioneers’ top scorer, forward Ella Runyon, who was averaging 19.4 points per game, Hill-Murray’s guards, led by Lilli Mackley with 27 points scored 54 of the Pioneer’s 60 points in the game, including 10 3-pointers to help lift them to the win.
Austin was led in scoring by Hope Dudycha, who tallied 15 points, Cassidy Schute added nine points, Elyise Hebrink wound up a fantastic career with the Packers with eight points, Olivia Walsh tallied six points off the Packer bench in the second half, Emma Dudycha tallied five points and Reana Schmidt scored four points for Austin, who wound up a great season with a record of 11-5, and the fifth trip to the state tournament in school history.
Hill-Murray will play either Alexandria Area or Becker in the Class AAA semi-finals next Tuesday night at Target Center at 9:00 p.m.