The Austin Packers, the No. 1 seed in the Section 1AAA boys’ basketball tournament and No. 10 in the state in the last Class AAA poll played host to the fourth-seeded Byron Bears in the section semi-finals Saturday night at Packer Gym, and the Packers utilized eight three-pointers and swarming defense in the first half to help themselves to a 32-19 lead at the break, and after an early second half run by Byron, the Packers responded to push their lead to as large as 23 on their way to a 64-45 win.
Byron jumped out to a 6-3 lead, but 3-pointers from Agwa Nywesh and Okey Okey, a steal and a layup for Nywesh and a dunk for Nywesh off another steal keyed a quick 10-0 run for Austin to put them into the lead, it would turn out, for good at 13-6. The Packers were kept almost exclusively to the perimiter by a 3-2 Byron zone and the shot blocking presence of 6’8″ sophomore center Ahjany Lee, but Austin utilized six more threes in the half to widen their lead and also forced 10 Bears turnovers in taking a 32-19 lead into the halftime break.
Byron came out with some fire at the start of the second half, as they went on a 6-0 run to pull as close as 32-25, but after an Austin timeout, a 3-pointer from Teyghan Hovland, his third of the game, a jumper from Moses Idris, a layup for Emmanuel Manyouon off a long alley-oop pass from Nywesh, two free throws from Nywesh and a reverse layup from Victor Idris keyed an 11-0 Packer run to put them back in front comfortably at 43-25. Austin kept up their relentless defensive pressure to force 23 Byron turnovers in the game, and when the Bears were forced to play man-to-man, the Packers were able to push their lead to as large as 23 on their way to the win.
In his final game on his home floor, Nywesh totaled 20 points for Austin, while fellow senior Pierre Lilly was also in double figures with 14 points. Teyghan Hovland’s four 3-pointers gave him 12 points, Emmanuel Manyouon added seven points, Okey Okey wound up with six points, Victor Idris tallied three points and his brother Moses wound up with two points for Austin, who moves to 23-5 on the year with the win.
The Packers will tangle with Albert Lea for the third time this season for the Section 1AAA title next Friday in Rochester, as the second-seeded Tigers downed No. 6 seed Simley in Albert Lea Saturday night 55-32. The Austin Packer pre-game show will come your way on AM 1480 KAUS from the Mayo Civic Arena Friday night at 7:45 p.m., and tip-off will be at 8:00 p.m. You can also listen online at myaustinminnesota.com, and on the I Heart Radio app.