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Preview: Austin boys are looking for payback

Last year at this time, the Winona boys basketball was almost exactly where Austin is this season.

They were ranked in the top-five of Class ‘AAA’ and they were hosting a No. 4 seed in the second round of the playoffs. Austin led that matchup by eight in the second half before bowing out and seeing its season end in Winona.

This time around, the Packers, who have won eight in a row, are the favorite and the top seed as they host Winona this Saturday at 7 p.m. in a Section 1AAA semifinal game in Packer Gym, where Austin is unbeaten this year.

The No. 5 seeded Winhawks (9-14 overall) have a much different roster this season, but the Packers still remember how their season ended last year.

“That section loss (last year) was a difficult one because I thought we played well and had some things work against us,” Austin head coach Kris Fadness said. “I would hope the boys would want to end their season this year the way ours was ended last year.”

The Packers (21-5 overall) beat Winona by scores 77-55 and 60-40 this season, but they trailed the most recent meeting 32-31 in the second half before finishing strong.

“Our game in Winona was one of the few games since Christmas where we were trailing in the second half,” Fadness said. “We don’t expect it to be easy. We know what Winona is capable of and we have been constantly preaching to the boys to live and worry about what’s important is now.”

The Winhawks will rely on a perimeter based attack and will likely launch a bevy of threes. On defense they will try to slow down Austin’s high powered attack with a zone.

“They have guards that are capable of controlling a game,” Fadness said. “Offensively, we will have to have good ball movement an attack the soft spots. We do have a size advantage on them.”

No matter what happens on Saturday, it will be Austin’s last home game of the season. The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to play the winner of No. 6 Albert Lea and No. 2 New Prague at Mayo Civic Arena for the Section 1AAA title March 16 at 8 p.m.

Austin has not won a section title and played in the state tournament since 1982.