The Austin Packers girls’ basketball team, No. 5 in the state in the latest Class AAA poll from the Associated Press was looking for win number two in a row Saturday night at Ove Berven Gym versus an Owatonna Huskies squad that was riding a three-game winning streak, and although the Packers rallied back from a 17-point early second half deficit to take a 41-39 lead, the last surge of the game belonged to the Huskies as they held on to win 54-46.
Austin held a brief 9-8 lead with about 11:30 to go in the first half, but Owatonna seized momentum with a 19-3 run to take a 27-12 lead, mostly due to the 3-point shooting of guard Holly Buytaert, who drilled four of them in the first half on her way to 14 points for the game and the scoring of forward Audrey Simon, who tallied nine first half points on field goals from the post, mid-range jumpers and one 3-pointer. The Huskies led 29-16 at the half and pushed their lead to as large as 17 early in the second half at 33-16, but it was there that Austin’s furious rally started as the Packers proceeded to reel off a 10-0 run to cut Owatonna’s lead to seven at 33-26. After a Huskies timeout, Austin continued to chip away at the deficit, and a 3-pointer from Cassidy Shute with 6:35 to go gave the Packers what would be their largest lead of the game at 41-39. Owatonna would answer, though, as the Huskies regrouped and went on an 8-1 run of their own to take a 47-42 lead, as leading scorer Lexi Mendenhall scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half, and the Huskies also went 5 for 8 from the free throw line down the stretch to hold off another Packers rally.
Austin was led in scoring Saturday night by guard Hope Dudycha, who swished five 3-pointers for 15 points, Cassidy Shute added 11 points, Olivia Walsh chipped in 10 points, Reana Schmitt tallied seven points and Emma Dudycha scored three points for the Packers, who are now 13-3 in the Big 9 Conference and 15-4 overall on the season.
Austin returns to action Tuesday night in Rochester versus the Century Panthers, with the varsity tip-off at 7:30 p.m.