Column: Packer girls are stepping up

Published 8:44 pm Monday, January 12, 2009

Don’t look now, but the Austin girls basketball team is starting to click.

Last week the Packers played three teams with winning records and they held all of those squads under 50 points while winning two of three.

The lone loss came at the hands of John Marshall in Ove Berven Friday and that one may have made the Packers even stronger.

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The reason for that loss was a slow start that saw the Packers pull their classic act of struggling in the first half and turning up the tempo in the second frame. Austin (6-4 overall, 4-2 Big Nine) almost pulled of the come from behind win, but I think the loss sends them the message that they need to play for 36 tough minutes to beat elite teams.

That lesson rang through on Saturday, as Austin handed Northfield it’s first loss of the season with a 56-38 win.

For the most part, the Packers have also beaten the teams they are supposed to this season and they’ve only been blown out once — by No. 1 ranked New Prague 62-30 in the opener.

Since then, Austin has been close in every contest, falling to JM — which has most of it’s Big Nine title team from last season intact — by seven, Owatonna by three and Red Wing (8-2 overall) by three.

It’s encouraging to see the Pack play close against some of the better teams on their schedule and they play another one of those tough teams Tuesday as they head to Mankato West (5-3 overall, 3-1 Big Nine) for a 7:30 p.m. game.

While getting back to the state tournament will be a tall order, with No. 1 New Prague in the section, I don’t think Austin — which is outscoring opponents 54.6 to 49 in 10 games this season — will be an easy out for anyone the rest of the season.

Making it to state last year gave this team has a lot of pride, and when it’s full court press is working, it can create a scoring run at anytime.

The best thing to happen over the last week was the emergence of Austin center Rebekah Aase, who scored 15 against Northfield and had 10 points and nine rebounds against JM.

If Aase can emerge as a consistent fourth scorer along with Tina Vorphal, Kathryn Gavin, and Krista Viehauser, this team could become much more dangerous.

Time will tell, but it’s looking good.