The Austin Packers girls’ basketball team was looking to keep their stellar season alive Thursday afternoon versus No. 4 seed Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the State Class AAA consolation semifinals at the Ganglehoff Center on the campus of Concordia-St. Paul, and although they trailed by as many as 12 early in the first half, the Packers were able to steady themselves and came storming back to force a tie at halftime, then used a big run at the start of the second half to break the game open on their way to a 62-44 win.
Austin jumped out to a 2-0 lead to start the game, but the Red Knights, led by 6’0″ sophomore guard Olivia Olson’s 11 first half points countered with a 9-0 run to take an early 9-2 lead, and Benilde eventually pushed their lead to 12, their largest of the game at 15-3. The Packers, though, then found their footing in the contest and their 2-3 zone slowed the Red Knights attack, while offensivley, Austin picked up two 3-pointers from senior guard Emma Dudycha on her way to eight first half points, while senior guard Hope Dudycha and junior guard Cassidy Shute each added 3’s as well, plus junior guard/forward Olivia Walsh tallied a pair of field goals and went 3 for 4 from the free throw line as the Packers came storming back with an 18-6 run of their own to retake the lead at 23-21 with 3:02 to go in the half. Austin later increased the lead to three at 27-24 before a 3-pointer from Red Knights guard Zahara Bishop just before the buzzer tied the game at 27 at the halftime break.
The Packers then seized control of the game at the start of the second half as a 3-pointer from Hope Dudycha capped off 10 straight points to put Austin in front 37-27, and the run grew to 15-0 to start the half for a 42-27 Packer lead before Benilde finally registered a point on a free throw from guard Kendall McGee to stop the scoreless string. Austin did not let their foot off the gas, however, as their 2-3 zone continued to frustrate the Red Knights on the defensive end, and offensivley, the Packers received contributions from all five starters from the post, the lane and the perimiter to steadily pull away to a lead as large as 18 points as the game wound down to its conclusion.
Austin had four players in double figures in scoring as Emma Dudycha tallied 19 points, Olivia Walsh shot 13 of Austin’s 21 free throws in the game on her way to 13 points, Reanna Schmitt scored eight of her 12 points in the second half, Hope Dudycha also tallied 12 points and Cassidy Shute swished a pair of 3’s for six points for the Packers, who raised their record to 26-6 with the win.
Austin will now play Section 8AAA champion Detroit Lakes for the Class AAA consolation title Friday afternoon back at Concordia St. Paul, as the Lakers downed Grand Rapids in the other Class AAA consolation semi-final 55-49. You’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS, with the pre-game show getting underway at 3:45 p.m., and tip-off from the Ganglehoff Center will come your way at 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoon.