The Austin Packers, the No. 2 seed in the Section 1AAA girls basketball tournament played host to No. 7 seed and Big 9 Conference foe Faribault Wednesday night at Ove Berven Gym, and senior guard Colie Justice netted 21 of her career-high 31 points in the second half, with point number 31 giving her 1,000 in her career in a 74-31 Packers win.
The Falcons were able to move the ball into the post for 6 foot freshman forward Otafio Esenabhalu in the very early going to take leads of 2-0 and 6-2, but she ran into foul trouble, and the Austin starting guard duo of Justice and Emma Dudycha combined to score 23 of the Packers’ 37 first-half points, each hitting two 3-pointers and also helping defensivley to force 12 first half turnovers on Faribault to lead 37-17 at the break.
Justice then put on an offensive display to say the least to start the second half as she scored the first 13 points of the half for Austin and a 3-pointer from freshman guard Cassidy Schute enabled the Packers to open the half on a 16-5 run to break the game wide open at 56-22. The highlight of the game, though, was when Justice stepped to the foul line late in the half and swished two free throws, the second giving her a career-high 31 points and 1,000 on the mark for her career. The Packers called timeout as Justice’s teammates mobbed her on the court and the crowd came to its feet for a standing ovation to mark her accomplishment. 10 different Packers scored in the game, while Austin’s defense held Faribault to only five field goals in the second half and forced 23 Falcon turnovers in the game.
Besides Justice’s 31 points, fellow starting guard Emma Dudycha tallied 13 points, all in the first half as the duo wound up scoring 44 points, while Faribault’s backcourt players were held to only 11 points in the game. Erica Lundberg scored all eight of her points in the first half, Joy Deng and Jillian Venega scored their first varsity points with six and two points, respectivley, Cassidy Schute added five points, Reana Schmidt, Ellie Tupy and Kyra Walters all scored three points and Mya Walters tallied two points for the Packers, who move to 21-6 on the season with the win.
The Packers will now play host to No. 3 seed Kasson/Mantorville, who defeated sixth-seeded Winona 78-61 Wednesday night. The two teams will square off for the second time this season Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Ove Berven Gym, and you’ll hear the game live on AM 1480 KAUS, world-wide on the web at myaustinminnesota.com and on the I Heart Radio app, with the Austin Packers pre-game show coming your way at 6:45 p.m. The other semi-final game Saturday night will pit 4th seeded Albert Lea against top-seeded Red Wing, as the Tigers downed No. 5 seed Byron in Albert Lea Wednesday night 66-58.