Packers advance to fourth straight Section 1AAA title game

The top-seeded Packers used a short break to rejuvenate and power past No. 4 seeded Byron 64-45 in a Section 1AAA semifinal in Packer Gym Saturday.

After leading 32-19 at the half, Austin looked like it was about to encounter a second half slump when Austin head coach Kris Fadness called a timeout with his team having its lead cut to 32-25. The Packers came up with an immediate answer as they scored the next 11 points to put the game out of reach. The run ignited by Teyghan Hovland, who hit a corner three-pointer on a dish from Pierre Lilly.

“Whenever we didn’t get rushed, I thought we were really good,” Fadness said “I’m happy with the way we played. The ball movement, at times, was really good.”

Lilly hit a three-pointer on the first possession of the game for the Packers and he finished with 14 points, three assists and five rebounds.

“That (three) was a real confident booster. I haven’t been shooting well all season, sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t,” Lilly said. “That shot boosted my confidence a lot.”

Austin committed just 10 turnovers and the Packers were able to rack up 13 steals to turn the tide in their favor. Jake Braaten scored 18 to lead Byron (16-12 overall), but Austin was able to contain Byron sophomore Ahjany Lee, who is a 6-foot, eight-inch center.

“We just had to move fast on defense. We had to make our rotations really quick and that’s how we slowed him down. We usually struggle with defensive rotations, but we picked it up tonight,” Lilly said of guarding Lee. “On offense, I had to be aware of him at all times, because he’s 6-8 and he’s long. He can block anything. I had to be aware every time I drove in of where he was.”

Agwa Nywesh had 19 points, seven steals and five assists for Austin (24-5 overall) and Teyghan Hovland hit four threes to score 12.

“It was nice to see Pierre have a good offensive game and it was nice to see Teyghan come back and have a good game,” Fadness said. “All Agwa really had to do tonight was to run the show. He was his usual self.”

The Packers will play Albert Lea as they play in their fourth consecutive Section 1AAA title game in Mayo Civic Center at 8 p.m. Friday. The No. 2 Tigers and Packers split the regular season series.

“We need to all get in the mindset of team ball and playing together to win instead of me ball,” Lilly said. “We’ve done better at that in these last couple of games, but we need to keep doing it.”

Byron 19  26    45

Austin 32  32    64

Austin scoring: Agwa Nywesh, 19; Pierre Lilly, 14; Teyghan Hovland, 12; Emanuel Manyuon, 7; Okey Okey, 6; Victor Idris, 3; Moses Idris, 2; free throws: 80 percent (4-for-5); rebounds: 20 (Victor Idris, 5); turnovers: 10