Section 1AAA: Tigers power past Packers in Section 1AAA title game

Published 7:46 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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ROCHESTER — The No. 3 seeded Austin girls basketball team had a quality season come to an end when it lost to No. 1 Stewartville 78-50 in the Section 1AAA title game in Mayo Civic Center Friday.

The Tigers (27-2 overall) came out on fire as they built up a 20-point lead in the first half and never looked back.

Austin’s Olivia Walsh scored to bring the Packers within 14-8, but Stewartville responded with nine straight points to go up 23-8 after freshman Audrey Shindelar converted a steal for a lay-up.

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The Tigers led Austin 47-24 at the half and opened the second half on a 7-0 spurt. They led by 30 with 12:30 left.

“We’ve played some really good teams in my tenure at Austin, but that first half was one of the toughest 18 minute stretches that I’ve really gone against,” Austin head coach Eric Zoske said. “I don’t know what percentage they shot, but it was a little outrageous. We just couldn’t get enough stops in a row.”

Walsh finished with 20 points and five rebounds in her final game for the Packers (20-9 overall) and senior Cassidy Shute had 16 points.

“Stewartville has a really good team and they all know how to play. We tried our best to put a complete game together, but it just didn’t fall our way tonight,” Shute said. “They’re probably one of the top teams we’ve played.”

It was the fourth time in five years that the Packers had played in a section title game.

Just getting to another title game was a major accomplishment for the Packers, who had to replace the majority of their starters and scorers from last year’s team that went to state.

“We really showed that we wanted to get here in the semifinals and we proved who we are as a team on the court,” Shute said. “I want to give credit to everybody. They worked their tails off and I give a lot of credit to the young girls, because I know they’re going to keep working.”

Zoske credited his captains for leading the way this season.

“The captains were fantastic leaders and I’m not saying that lightly,” Zoske said. “We were in the Big Nine chase until the last week of the season and we made it to the section title game. Nobody thought we were going to do either of those things. It was fun overall and we did a lot of good things, but it’s sad that it ends.”