Hulne: Packer girls basketball team has a big game coming up

Published 8:48 pm Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Austin girls basketball team has had quite the whirlwind season.

After winning their first contest of the year, they dropped seven straight games as they headed into a 16-day break without any games on their schedule. With a lot of time to think about their early shortcomings, the Packers chose to fight to save their season instead of simply watching it slip away.

Austin came out of the break and won its first four games and it tallied a record of 12-7 overall in the second half of the season.

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“All of those losses early on helped energize us to play harder the rest of the season,” Austin forward Shayley Vesel said after she hit a game-winning 3-pointer in Austin’s 40-37 win over Byron in their Section 1AAA tournament opener in Ove Berven Gym Wednesday night.

That win over the Bears ignited the Austin student section to storm the court twice — once after Vesel’s shot went through and they thought the game was over, and another time a few seconds later when the game actually was over.

The last time the Packers won a playoff game was in 2013 and they followed that up with a good battle against eventual Class AAA runner-up Red Wing. The Wingers beat Austin 61-57.

Now, as the Packers prepare to play Mayo Civic Center in Rochester for the first time since 2009, they will face another juggernaut. The Packers will play top-seeded and No. 5 ranked Kasson-Mantorville (25-2 overall) 1 p.m. Saturday.

The KoMets, who won Section 1AAA last year, will look to sophomore center and Iowa State University commit Kristin Scott to lead them on Saturday. KM beat the Packers 87-66 Dec. 13 and the Packers had been within 58-47 in the second half of that game.

To upset the KoMets, Austin sophomore Ruth Koang, who is 6-3, will have to contain Scott and the Packers will have to control the ball and hit some big shots.

No matter what happens for Austin on Saturday, winning a playoff game and getting to the Section 1AAA semifinals is a big step for a team that will return it’s go-to scorer in Vesel and its best post defender in Koang next season.