The Austin Packers girls’ basketball team, the No. 3 seed in the Section 1AAA girls’ basketball tournament played host to fourth-seeded Albert Lea in the section championship game at Ove Berven Gym Wednesday evening, and in a half-court, grind-it-out kind of game where every possession was crucial, the Packers rallied back from an early six point deficit to take a lead they would not relinquish as they claimed the section championship with a 45-30 win.
Albert Lea took an early 7-1 lead in the first half as Austin did not register its first field goal until 6:28 into the contest when Hope Dudycha drained a 3-pointer to cut the Tiger lead to 7-4. The 3-pointer sparked a Packer rally as they reeled off a 12-0 to take a 13-7 lead, and it would be a lead they would not relinquish.
Austin went into the locker room at the end of the first half with a 19-14 lead, but Albert Lea started the second half on a 9-4 run to tie the game at 23 apiece. The Tigers, though, could not work their way in front as Austin answered back with a 17-5 run to push their lead to 12 at 40-28, their biggest of the game to that point. Albert Lea was forced to foul in the closing minutes to put the Packers at the free throw line to try to salt the game away, and Austin did just that by going 7 for 9 from the foul line in the second half and 10 of 13 for the game for 77% on their way to the win.
As in the win over Kasson/Mantorville, the guard duo of Hope and Emma Dudycha were the difference in the game, as they scored 19 of Austin’s 26 second half points in the win, plus they were part of a strong team effort defensively that stymied the Tigers after their run early in the second half to tie the game. Emma Dudycha tallied 15 points to lead the Packers, Emma Dudycha scored 13 points and the duo also accounted for all three of Austin’s 3-pointers in the game. Cassidy Schute chipped in seven points for the Packers, Reana Schmitt and Olivia Walsh each added four points and Elyise Hebrink scored two points for Austin, who qualifies for the state girls’ basketball tournament for the fifth time in school history, joining Packer squads who qualified in 1976, 2004, 2008 and 2019.
Austin heads into the State Class AAA girls’ basketball tournament with an 11-4 record, and they will be in action either Tuesday, March 30th or Wednesday, March 31st in the Class AAA quarterfinals against an opponent yet to be determined, and at a site and date also yet to be determined.