Packer girls fall in state quarterfinals

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS — The Packers gave the defending champs all they could handle and more, but a scoring slump at the wrong time doomed Austin’s chances as it lost to No. 1 seeded Becker 53-48 in the Minnesota Class AAA Girls State Basketball Tournament quarterfinals in Maturi Pavilion Wednesday.

Becker closed the game on a 12-0 spurt over the final four minutes as Austin committed a couple of crucial turnovers in the final minute, while protecting a one-point lead. The Bulldogs grabbed the lead for good when Ayla Brown converted a lay-up to make it 49-48 with 35 seconds left. The Packers turned the ball over the ensuing possession and Becker iced the game when Danielle Nuest scored on a backdoor cut to make it 51-48 while Austin was trying to foul with 10.5 seconds left. Nuest  drew a foul, but missed the free throw and the Bulldogs secured the rebound, which led to two more free throws by Alexis Rose. 

“I’m not sure how much they knew about Austin, but we know a lot about Becker. We both run the exact same system and that game was predictable,” Austin head coach Eric Zoske said. “We’re proud of the girls. It’s a brutal locker room after a loss like that. Moments like this stink and they stick with you for life, but they also build personal character. When you give full effort you have to live with the results and unfortunately, this game didn’t go our way.”

Austin looked to be headed to the semifinals when Olivia Walsh cut to the hoop and scored to make it 47-41 with 4:58 left in the game and Reanna Schmitt hit one of two free throws to make it 48-41, but the Packers would never score again.

Adeline Kent hit back-to-back threes to bring the Bulldogs within 48-47 with 2:11 left.

“We knew it was coming and we knew they weren’t going to fold,” Zoske said. “We just needed a bucket down the stretch and we didn’t get that one more bucket that we needed.” 

Hope Dudycha, who finished with 12 points and four assists, made some big plays for the second half as she hit a three to put Austin up 37-36, she found her sister Emma Dudycha who hit a three to put Austin up 40-39 and she converted a left handed scoop lay-up that put Austin up 45-41. Austin senior Reanna Schmitt also gave the Packers a big boost against an undersized Becker team as she piled on eight points, 13 rebounds, three assists, and four blocks.

“I knew I had to work hard. We always have to work hard. But with them being a smaller team, I knew I had an impact” Schmitt said. “They had a good game plan and they executed down the stretch. Their defense gave us some problems.”

Walsh, a junior, gave Austin 12 points and nine rebounds. She is competing in her second state tournament of this school year as she also swam in the Class A State Swimming and Diving Meet this past fall. Walsh has bonded with Austin’s senior class and it was tough for her to see things end so suddenly against Becker.

“It’s really hard knowing that the seniors are going to be gone next year,” Walsh said.

Zoske felt that the Packers were a little overlooked as he thought his team should be a No. 6 seed, not a No. 8. His team’s play proved that point as the Packers pushed Becker to its limit.

“This whole system is frustrating,” Zoske said. “This was not an eight versus one first round game,” Zoske said. “This was like a state championship game and there’s no way this game should’ve happened in the first round.”

Becker (24-4 overall) celebrated at center court as a team after the win, which is a rare sight for a defending champion in the first round. Bulldogs head coach Dan Baird echoed Zoske’s sentiment on the seedings and he gave Austin plenty of credit for pushing his team.

“Austin is a fantastic team and I don’t know how they ended up being our first round matchup,” Baird said. “They have a tremendous starting five and we knew they would be a tough matchup.”

The Packers (24-6 overall) trailed by as many as six and they led by as many as seven in the first half, which went back and forth.

Austin scored four straight points to go up 14-7 with 9:12 left in the first half after Schmitt scored in the paint and Hope converted a fantastic up and under lay-up.

Austin trailed 22-20 at the half.

The Packers will next play a consolation round game at 2 p.m. Thursday at Concordia University.

Austin scoring: Hope Dudycha, 12; Olivia Walsh, 12; Reanna Schmitt, 8; Emma Dudycha, 9; Cassidy Shute, 7

Becker scoring: Maren Westin, 15; Adeline Kent, 13; Danielle Nuest, 8; Rose, 8; Ayla Brown, 7; Elizabeth Macken 2