The Austin Packers boys’ basketball team, the No. 1 seed in the Section 1AAA tournament played host to No. 4 seed Kasson/Mantorville in the tournament semifinals at Packer Gym Saturday night, and in front of a large, raucous crowd, the Packers used a superlative defensive effort, especially in the second half and a 14-0 run midway through the second half to sprint away from the Komets in a 71-39 win in Kris Fadness’s last game as Head Coach of Austin at Packer Gym.
The first half of Saturday night’s game was a slow-down, half-court battle as Austin edged in front for the first time at 6-5 with 13:50 left in the half, and they later pushed their lead to as large as six at 21-15, but the Komets changed defenses frequently throughout the half, and the 3-point shooting of starting guard Camden Holecek and from guard Ethan Lee off the bench helped Kasson/Mantorville close the gap to four at 26-22 at the halftime break.
Austin took the floor to start the second half a determined bunch, as a 3-pointer from guard Jack Lang capped an 11-4 run to give the Packers their biggest lead of the game to that point at 11 at 37-26, and two free throws from guard Cham Okey soon thereafter gave Austin a 39-27 lead with 12:30 to go. After a field goal for the Komets brought the lead back to 10 at 39-29 with 11:40 on the clock, KM called a timeout, and after that timeout, Packers junior guard Ater Manyuon took center stage as he hit a contested layup, scored again after one of his four steals, tallied another layup after another Komet turnover, and after a missed field goal, senior forward Victor Idris scored on a driving left-handed layup for a quick 8-0 run in a span of 1:36 to give Austin a 47-29 lead. A Kasson/Mantorville timeout did nothing to slow Austin’s momentum as the Packers pushed the run to 14-0 before a field goal for the Komets with just under 8:30 to go finally ended the Austin outburst and made the score 53-31. Austin’s defense, which came up with 18 steals and forced 19 turnovers for the game did not relent, however, and the Packers offense kept rolling as they wound up outscoring Kasson/Mantorville 45-17 in the second half on their way to the win.
Manyuon wound up lead three Packers in double figures in scoring with 14 points, Cham Okey drilled three of Austin’s nine 3-pointers in the game and tallied 13 points, plus he added team highs in rebounds with five and assists with five, Victor Idris chipped in 12 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot, Gage Manahan contributed six points, two rebounds, one assist and a team-high five steals, Jared Lillemon and Jack Lang each swished a pair of 3’s for six points apiece, Buai Duop and Kaden Murley each tallied four points, and Othow Gari and Jacob Herrick each drained a 3-pointer for three points apiece for the Packers, who raised their record to 16-12 on the season with the win.
Austin advances into the section championship for the sixth straight season, and they will meet Big 9 Conference foe Winona for the 1AAA title next Friday at 8:00 p.m. at the Rochester Civic Center Arena. The No. 3 seeded Winhawks knocked off No. 2 seed Stewartville 62-52 in the other 1AAA semifinal Saturday night.