Packers paced by seniors in win over Tigers as conference chase heats up

Published 9:34 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

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The Packers are headed down the homestretch of the season and they showed they still have plenty of gas left in the tank as they ran past Albert Lea 76-48 in a girls basketball game in Ove Berven Gym Friday night.

AL (1-18 overall) held a brief 7-6 early lead to begin the game, but the Packers answered with a 40-15 charge over the rest of the first half – which saw six different Packers break into the scoring column.

By the time the game was over, 11 different Packers put up at least on point in the win.

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Cassidy Shute finished with 21 points, five rebounds and seven steals for Austin and Olivia Walsh added 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. Shute, Walsh and Isabella Weideman have all provided strong senior leadership for the Packers (16-6 overall) this season, despite taking different paths.

I’ve had a lot of fun teaching the younger girls and being a leader this season,” Shute said. “I like being captains with the other seniors. They always put a smile on my face every day in practice.”

Shute played with Weideman in AYB until Weideman moved to California, but Weideman moved back to Austin two years ago and she now serves as a steady back-up post player.

“It’s been a lot different from when we were little,” Weideman said. “We’re a lot more mature and improved and it’s been fun playing with everyone again.”

Walsh moved to Austin from Idaho five years ago and she’s been a fixture on the varsity level from day one. 

I don’t know if I would say that (it feels like home yet), but this is definitely the most successful team I’ve had in basketball and basketball is a big part of my life,” Walsh said. “If you look at it that way, it’s like home.”

Austin head coach Eric Zoske started this season with a lot of question marks on his roster, but young players have stepped up as athletes and the seniors have developed as leaders and strong players. The Packers, who have played in the last two state tournaments, are now in contention for a Big Nine crown.

We came in this year with very little experience,” Zoske said. “The seniors have been models on the floor and in the classroom. We’re gelling at the right time with our senior leadership.”

The Packers were tied with Rochester Mayo for first place in the Big Nine headed into the game against AL. Austin’s last Big Nine title came in 2004, which was before all of this year’s roster was even born.

Austin has four games remaining in the regular season and three of them are against teams in the bottom half of the standings. It will play at Northfield on Feb. 14, it will host Winona Feb. 16, it will play at Rochester Mayo in a major showdown on Feb. 21 and it will host Faribault on Feb. 24.

“We’ve been close in the last few years and it’s definitely within our reach this year if we keep playing our style,” Walsh said of the chase for the conference crown. “It’s definitely something we can accomplish. Tonight was big to get momentum and our games will only get harder from here.”
AL 21 27 – 48

Austin 46 30 – 76

Austin scoring: Cassidy Shute, 21; Ajiem Agwa, 13; Olivia Walsh, 12; Quinn Osgood, 10; Mackenzie Brede, 4; Kristen Nielsen, 3; Marissa Shute, 2; Isabella Weideman, 2; Nora Sand, 2; Addison Boysen, 2; Nyabol Mourwal, 1