The Austin Packers boys basketball team, the champions of Section 1AAA and back in the State Class AAA tournament for the first time since 2019 tangled with a tall and talented Princeton Tigers squad in the tournament quarterfinals at Williams Arena Tuesday afternoon, and although the Packers put up a furious second half rally to cut a 15-point deficit to three, the Tigers, the No. 2 seed in the AAA field had an answer as their top two scorers. forward Haydn Stay and guard Cooper Drews tallied 23 and 22 points, respectivley to help the Tigers hold off the Packers to win 73-63.
Austin took their biggest lead of the game at 10-5 in the first half on layups from guards Jack Lang and Cham Okey, a jumper from Okey off of a Princeton turnover, one of 23 they committed in the game, a layup from senior forward Victor Idris and a layup from junior guard Ater Manyuon with 10:52 left in the half. The Tigers, though, rallied back with an 11-0 run of their own to take a 16-10 lead with 7:42 to go, and they pushed their lead to as large as seven at 21-14 before Austin came back to outscore the Tigers 12-10 down to stretch to cut their lead at the half to five points at 31-26.
Princeton turned the game in their favor early in the second half as four Austin turnovers in a span of 1:07 turned into eight quick points for the Tigers to give them a 41-28 lead with 15:27 left, and they were able to push their lead to as large as 15 at 51-36 on a 3-pointer from Drews, one of six he would convert for the game with 11:39 to go. The Packers then started their rally as field goals from senior guard Gage Manahan and Manyuon, a layup from Okey off of a steal by Lang, a layup from Manyuon and a 3-pointer from Lang cut the Princeton lead to 53-47 and forced the Tigers to call a timeout. Austin kept up the pressure after the timeout as guard Manny Guy came off the Packer bench and swished two free throws after he came up with a steal and was fouled in the act of shooting, and after another Tiger turnover, Guy drew a foul in the ensuing fast break and drained one of two free throws to cap off a 14-2 run and cut the Princeton lead to 53-50 with 9:45 left to go. Unfortuatley for Austin, that was as close as they would get as the Tigers answered with an 8-0 run of their own to lead 61-50 with 8:01 left, and the closest the Packers would get the rest of the way was six points on two free throws from Manyuon with 4:17 left to play.
Manyuon had one of his best games of the season for Austin as he led the way with 17 points off the bench, plus he added two steals and one assist, Cham Okey totaled 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal, Victor Idris added 11 points, eight rebounds, one assist and one steal, Manny Guy chipped in nine points and two steals off the bench, Gage Manahan and Jack Lang each tallied five points and Kaden Murley scored two points for the Packers, who were held to 2 for 23 shooting from behind the 3-point arc for the game for only 8.7%, and they were 27 for 71 overall from the field for the game for 38%.
With the loss, Austin is now 17-13 on the season, and the Packers will next meet St. Cloud Tech in the Class AAA consolation semifinals at the Ganglehoff Center at Concordia/St. Paul at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, as the Tigers were felled by No. 3 seed DeLaSalle Tuesday 69-55. You’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS, with the Austin Packers pre-game show on the air at 3:30 p.m., and tip-off at 4:00 p.m.