Hulne: To win, Packers must retain focusPublished 4:03pm Tuesday, March 19, 2013
— Look for this story, along with features, photos, a state preview, bracket and stats in a 12-page special section out today in the Austin Daily Herald print edition!
Well before the season started, the Packer boys basketball team was pretty clear about its main goal. The team wanted to win a state title. And after an undefeated season that almost came to an end in the last two playoff rounds, the Packers are in a position to do just that.
If Austin can win three games in four days, its mission will be complete. If not, they can look back at this season as one of the finest in school history.
To go 28 games without a loss in anything is amazing, especially in basketball. The winter season is the longest high school sports season, and there are bound to be nights when players just aren’t that pumped up, or maybe they’re focused on something else. There are going to be distractions.
To be able to keep pumping out wins — especially when everyone in the Big Nine wanted to make a name for themselves by knocking off the second-ranked Packers — is something to be proud of.
The Packers haven’t shot as well in the postseason as they did earlier in the season, yet they’ve found ways to win the last two games. More important, it hasn’t just been one guy making the key plays to win.
Ajuda Nywesh hit a layup to win the Winona game, and he had the go-ahead score in the Red Wing game, Joe Aase has hit some huge 3-pointers, Zach Wessels has had plenty of momentum-changing drives and scores, Collin Weisert has hit key 3-pointers in both wins, and Tom Aase has been a monster on the defensive side of the floor.
The more people you have making plays, the higher your chances of winning are. Austin struggled in its last two games, but sometimes you need to struggle to get better.
Coaches always say that you learn more from losing than you do from winning. It’s now too late for the Packers to learn from a loss as it would end their season, but a close win can be just as informative.
I don’t think the Packers played that bad against Red Wing; they just ran into a very big and physical team, and there weren’t a lot of whistles blowing. It was very similar to the game Austin lost at Owatonna last year, when the Huskies turned the contest into more of a football contest than a basketball game.
The difference between last year’s team and this year’s is Austin eventually faded away and lost to Owatonna after holding a sizeable lead. But on Friday, the Packers saw their sizeable lead completely disappear, and they still had the confidence to get back in it and walk away with a win.
If you were at the game, you noticed that Austin didn’t celebrate after winning even though they had just qualified for state in an overtime contest.
This team has been focused on the state tournament all season long and hopefully it brings out the best in them, because the margin for error is about to get a lot smaller.
Before Austin lost to St. Paul Johnson last year in the state quarterfinals, it hung with the Governors for most of the game. There was even a couple moments where Austin looked like it was moving on.
Then fatigue set in, and inexperience took over.
The stage was big, the lights were bright and the Packers just weren’t quite up to it. But all five of Austin’s starters played in that game last year, and they don’t want to endure the same result.
To avoid that, the Packers will have to relax and play the game they love. They can’t worry about what De LaSalle — who is the hands-down favorite in Class ‘AAA’ — is doing on the other side of the bracket.
They just need to relax, smile and play a game of basketball. Getting nervous or scared never won anybody anything, especially in sports.
If the Packers can find a way to play on offense like they did in the 80-77 win over Rochester John Marshall in December, and play defense like in the Section 1AAA tournament — where the Packers allowed just 42.3 points per game — they’ll be in good shape.
The question is, can they do that?
We’ll find out this week.