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Milestone Moment: Justice hits 1,000; Packers coast in Section 1AAA opener

Austin senior Colie Justice has had some of her highest highs and one of her lowest lows on the basketball court, but she celebrated her perseverance with a career-best scoring output to reach 1,000 career points as the No. 2 Packer girls basketball team beat No. 7 seeded Faribault 74-31 in a Section 1AAA quarterfinal in Ove Berven Gym Wednesday.

Justice, who went on a personal 12-0 run early in the second half, delivered 31 points to go along with three rebounds and three assists to reach the 1,000 point club. She needed every one of those 31 points to reach the milestone as her final bucket of the night put her at 1,000.

Justice was brought up to the varsity team as a middle schooler and played big minutes as a freshman, but her basketball future took a dip when she injured her knee and missed her entire sophomore season. Since then she’s bounced back and will play college basketball at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls next year.

Justice knew the 1,000 mark was drawing near, but she didn’t obsess over it.

“It’s always been something in the back of my mind, but it’s nothing I’ve ever really focused on,” Justice said. “It’s all my teammates and I couldn’t have done it without them. It’s a cool experience, it’s something I’l never forget and I give thanks to my teammates.”

Austin (21-6 overall) started a little sluggish as it trailed the Falcons (1-26 overall) 6-2 early on. Sophomore Emma Dudycha had an answer as she hit back-to-back threes to put her team up 8-6. Dudycha scored all 13 of her points in the first half as the Packers held a 37-17 lead at the break.

Dudycha said she didn’t mind watching Justice take over the game in the second half.

“It was fun to watch,” Dudycha said of Justice’s 31 points. “She works so hard and I’ve spent so many hours with her in the gym outside of practice. It’s good to see her hard work pay off.”

Austin head coach Eric Zoske was glad to see Justice make history when the shorthanded Packers needed her to. Austin was playing without injured starters Hope Dudycha and Elyse Hebrink.

“With Colie missing her sophomore year, that is quite an accomplishment to miss an entire year and still get 1,000 points,” Zoske said. “She’s earned it, she deserves it and she’s a fantastic kid. She’s put in a ton of time in the offseason and I couldn’t be any happier for her.”

Austin freshman Olivia Walsh had her first career start as she finished with two points, two rebounds, four assists and two steals and freshman Cassidy Shute gave the Packers five points off the bench.

“I think Olivia and Cassidy have really stepped up,” Dudycha said. “It’s good to see them coming in and helping us out.”

Austin will now take on No. 3 seeded Kasson-Mantorville in the Section 1A semifinals in Ove Berven Gym at 7 p.m. Saturday. The KoMets beat Winona 78-61 on Wednesday.

Zoske is hoping the Packers can get healthy for that game.

“I think Hope will get some minutes. She’s been practicing and she looks pretty good, and I would never bet on Elyse to sit out a game,” he said. “She’s as tough as they come. We’re going to prepare as if they won’t play and if they do play, it will be a bonus.”

Austin beat K-M (18-9 overall) 63-57 on Nov. 22.

Faribault 17  14  —  31

Austin 37  37  —  74

Austin scoring: Colie Justice, 31; Emma Dudycha, 13; Joy Deng, 6; Erica Lundberg, 6; Cassidy Shute, 5; Reana Schmitt, 3; Kyra Walters, 3; Ellie Tupy, 3; Olivia Walsh, 2; Jillian Venenga, 2; free throws: 73 percent (11-for-15); rebounds: 27 (Schute, 5); turnovers: 11