Winhawks upset Packers with a late push

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, February 16, 2023

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The Austin girls basketball team suffered a setback in their pursuit of the Big Nine title as they had their six-game winning streak end in a loss to Winona, 58-57, in Ove Berven Gym Thursday night.

Austin (17-7 overall) led for the bulk of the night but things slipped away late and it ran out of chances when Quinn Osgood had a three-point attempt blocked by Winona’s Mackenzi Simmons with four seconds left. 

Winona’s Marin Keller put the pressure on Austin when she hit a top of the key three to bring her team within 57-56 with 53 seconds left.

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The Packers turned the ball over on their ensuing possession and after two offensive rebounds by Winona, Keller drew a foul on a loose ball and hit two free throws to put Winona up 58-57 with 13.1 seconds left.

Austin led for most of the night, but it was the shots it couldn’t convert that haunted the team.

“We’ve really been drilling over the past few weeks to finish in practice and it kind of got us tonight,” Austin head coach Eric Zoske said. “We had a lot of good looks at the basket tonight and a couple of them just didn’t go in. That really adds up when it’s a one point game. If we knock down some of those easy ones, it’s a different game. But hats off to Winona, we had them down twice in the second half and they just kept battling back.”

The Winhawks (10-13 overall) hung around and they pulled within 54-53 when Lexi Vesel hit a three with 3:15 left. Austin’s Olivia Walsh responded with a quick drive to make it 56-53 with 3:10 left.

On a night when their offense wasn’t clicking, the Packers let their defense do the talking early in the second half. Marissa Shute took a charge in the early minutes of the frame with Austin leading 37-30, Ajiem Agwa blocked a Winona three-point attempt just 30 seconds later and Walsh made a big block that was saved from out of bounds by Osgood with Austin leading 41-34 with 12:44 left in the game.

Winona took a 23-20 lead when Mackenzi Simmons converted a lay-up late in the first half, but the Packers found their footing as Quinn Osgood hit a pair of threes and scored eight points in the final five minutes to give Austin a 35-30 lead at the break.

“I didn’t like our defense in the first half,” Zoske said. “They hit five threes in the first half and that caused us to do some adjustments and we never really got into a defensive groove.”

Walsh finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Packers and Marissa Shute had five points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

With the loss, the Packers will likely have to win their last two games of the regular season next week to share the conference title.

Winona 30 27  –  57

Austin   35  21 – 56

Austin scoring: Olivia Walsh, 16; Ajiem Agwa, 14; Quinn Osgood, 14; Cassidy Shute, 8; Marissa Shute, 5