Packers hit their stride against Falcons, turn focus to conference chase

Published 9:36 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

After a one week break from games and a lull in the practice schedule, the Austin girls basketball team was able to get its motor running as it beat Faribault 84-25 in Ove Berven Gym Tuesday.

The Packers led 57-3 early in the second half before the Falcons (0-12 overall) connected on their first field goal of the game when Isabe Herda scored with 17:25 left in the game. Austin’s starters played for another five minutes in the second half, before head coach Eric Zoske let his reserves finish off the victory.

“We had a snow day on Friday and yesterday was a really rough practice,” Zoske said. “It felt like the first day after break. The focus of this one was to get running and get our legs back.”

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Austin was led by senior Hope Dudycha, who put up 20 points, five rebounds, six steals and four assists in limited minutes and junior Olivia Walsh added seven points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

“No matter who we’re playing, we have to come out hard and get out on them early,” Walsh said. “We needed to work out the rust tonight and now we have to work hard in practice for the next two weeks.”

The Packers are holding onto a one game lead in the Big Nine as they enter the second half of the schedule. Austin’s next four games are all against teams in the top half of the conference race.

“If we’re fortunate enough to win the Big Nine this year, we will be able to look back at this week and say that was the week that we won it,” Zoske said. “We have JM on Friday, West on Monday, East on the next Friday and Mayo on that Saturday. We have some juggernauts all right in a row.”

Austin has won its last two games by a combined 97 points after losing to St. Paul Como Park on Jan. 6, but the Packers surely have some close contests on the horizon. Dudycha and the Packers are excited for the challenge.

“We’ll have to switch gears, knowing that we’re not playing the bottom of the conference anymore,” Hope said. “It’s all top games and staying healthy will be huge. We’re at the top of the conference and we’ve beaten every team except for Mayo, who we haven’t played. We’re the team to beat. We should have confidence going in.”

Emma Dudycha had 18 points and four assists for the Packers.

Faribault 3   22  —  25

Austin 54  30  —  84

Austin scoring: Hope Dudycha, 20; Emma Dudycha, 18; Ruby Kvam, 10; Reanna Schmitt, 8; Olivia Walsh, 7; Cassidy Shute, 6; Kiru Othow, 6; Gracie Schmitt, 2; Marissa Shute, 1; free throws: 64 percent (18-for-28); rebounds: 30 (Walsh, 5; Hope, 5); turnovers: 8