Hope Floats: Dudycha torches Rockets in big win for Austin

Published 9:45 pm Friday, December 3, 2021

Austin senior Hope Dudycha gives up almost a foot in height to Rochester John Marshall standout Lilly Meister, but it was Dudycha who rose to the occasion in leading the No. 2-ranked Packers to a 57-51 win over the Rockets in Ove Berven Gym Friday.

Austin led by as many as 17 in the second half, but Meister, an Indiana University commit, did plenty of damage as she brought JM back to within 53-51 when she stole the ball from Dudycha and went coast-to-coast for a lay-up with 55 seconds left.

Dudycha countered with a pair of free throws to make it 55-51 with 46.5 seconds left and she sealed Austin’s win when she doubled down on Meister to get a steal of her own on JM’s ensuing possession.

“We knew the ball was probably going to (Meister). We had to do what we had to do and I sank in,” Dudycha said. “We didn’t get to play (JM) last year because of COVID and we knew they got better and so did we. We knew this would be a fun matchup and it was nice to come out on top.”

Dudycha finished with 28 points and five steals for the Packers (2-0 overall, 1-0 Big Nine) as she knocked down eight three-pointers. Six of those threes came in the first half, including a clutch triple that put Austin up 39-27 at halftime.

“I zoned out,” Dudycha said. “I just kept shooting. It was crazy.”

After trailing 3-0 to start the game, the Packers put together a 12-0 run that saw Olivia Walsh hit a three and Emma Dudycha converted a pair of steals for lay-ups. JM never led again.

“Hope is a rockstar and she was our catalyst. We almost became too dependent on her and she didn’t come out of the game,” Austin head coach Eric Zoske said. “I felt like the girls kind of relied on her a little bit too much down the stretch, but she had a sidekick in Olivia, who has the ability to go at some of those big players. Ruby hitting two threes off the bench was awesome.”

Walsh finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks, just two weeks after she was swimming in the Minnesota Class A State Swimming and Diving Meet for the Packers. Walsh gave an undersized Austin team a big boost, along with Reana Schmitt, who added 10 rebounds.

“My vertical helps me a lot,” Walsh said. “We have a lot of help defense also, so even if I do get beat someone is waiting behind me.”

Walsh has played with Hope long enough to know to get her the ball when her shot is on and Friday night was no different.

“I’ve played with Hope for three years and I played AAU with her,” Walsh said. “I know whenever I get it to her, something good is going to happen.”

After a season with limited crowds and masked players, Ove Berven Gym was packed on Friday. The student section was roaring before the opening tip and it carried on throughout the night.

“I really missed this environment,” Zoske said. “To go from an empty Ove Berven Gym last year to what we had here tonight, it was so fun. We played one of the best around tonight and having support like that from the crowd helps us get through these tough challenges.”

JM 27  24  —  51

Austin 39  18  —  57

Austin scoring: Hope Dudycha, 28; Olivia Walsh, 12; Ruby Kvam, 6; Cassidy Shute, 5; Emma Dudycha, 4; Reanna Schmitt, 2; free throws: 70 percent (7-for-10); rebounds: 23 (Schmitt, 10); turnovers: 13