Hockey, basketball teams back in action
By Scott A. Kolb
Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
Although action on the local sports scene is somewhat sparse over the holiday break, some of the area teams will be playing over the next couple of days.
The only sports tournament in Austin during the holiday interlude is the annual Weyerhaeuser-Merchants girls hockey event at Riverside Arena. This tourney will feature eight teams. It starts on Thursday afternoon and runs through Saturday. The Austin boys hockey team will also be on the ice during the holiday stretch.
The Austin Packers boys and girls basketball teams will be in action over the break. Southland’s boys and girls basketball teams are also playing in a holiday tournament.
Getting in some action prior to the start of the division schedule, the Riverland men’s basketball team will host a non-conference game on Saturday afternoon.
Joining the Austin girls at Riverside Arena for the three days of the hockey tournament will be: Fairmont, the Minneapolis Novas, Mankato West, Northfield, Bloomington Jefferson, Albert Lea, and Huron, S.D.
Austin and Fairmont will get the tournament started with the opening game on Thursday afternoon. The opening face-off for the first game of the tourney will be at noon.
Following the Packers game in their half of the bracket will be the Novas vs. Mankato West. The winners of the first two games then play in the semifinals on Friday at 2 p.m. The losers of the opening rounds play in the consolation bracket on Friday at 9 a.m.
In the lower half of the bracket on Thursday, it will be Northfield vs. Bloomington Jefferson at 5 p.m. and then, the late game will feature Albert Lea against Huron. The winners play in the semifinals on Friday at 4:30 p.m. The losers play in the consolation round on Friday at 11 a.m.
After the semifinals are completed on Friday, there will be a shoot-out starting at 7 p.m. This is a kind of social gathering for the girls and it gives them a chance to show off their individual skills.
The final rounds of the tournament on Saturday start with the seventh-place game at 9 a.m. The consolation finals will then follow at 11 a.m. The third-place game begins at 2 p.m. The puck then drops for the championship game of the Weyerhaeuser-Austin Merchants Tournament at 4:30 p.m.
Austin lost to Blaine in the championship game last year. The Blaine Bengals won’t be back to defend their title. Mankato West, Bloomington Jefferson, and the South Dakota school are the new teams in the tourney this year.
There won’t be a trip to a tournament for the Austin boys team, but the Packers will be on the road. It hasn’t been easy so far for the Austin boys in Big Nine Conference play, so maybe they’ll have some luck in a non-conference game. The Packers will try to get their first win of the season when they travel to Northfield on Friday night.
High school hoops
Playing a couple of teams from the suburban conferences in the Twin Cities metro area will give the Austin boys basketball team a good test over the break.
The Packers have started the season with a 2-1 record and won both of their Big Nine Conference games so far, but they’ll face stiff competition in the Lakeville North Tournament on Thursday and Friday. Austin, a Class AAA team, will face opponents from Class AAAA in both tournament games.
In the first round of the tourney on Thursday, the Austin boys will play Shakopee at 6 p.m. The next day will feature a game against the host team from Lakeville North at 6 p.m.
Although they won’t be playing in a tournament over the holidays, the annual game for the Austin girls against Red Wing has a tourney feel about it. Last year, the Austin girls went on the road and handed Red Wing its first loss of the season during the meeting over the holidays.
This year, the Red Wing Wingers will be looking for revenge when they visit Ove Berven Gym on Friday night. The Packers are riding high with a six-game winning streak and a spot in the state’s top 10 rankings for Class AAA. The Packers will try to make it seven straight wins in their final game of 2007.
The Southland Rebels will be playing a girls-boys doubleheader over the course of two days at the Montgomery-Lonsdale Tournament. This tourney begins on Thursday afternoon and continues on Friday. The Southland girls play Medford in the opener at 1 p.m. and then, the Southland boys follow against Medford at 3 p.m.
Blue Devils prep
With the rugged Minnesota Community College Conference, South Division schedule looming right around the corner, the Riverland men’s basketball team will have one final tune-up on Saturday afternoon at home. This game is a late addition to the schedule and will feature the Blue Devils against the Gustavus Adolphus College junior varsity.
Technically, this is a rematch as the Gustavus JV beat Riverland a few weeks ago, but this time it will be like facing a different team. In the first meeting, the Gusties brought along a couple of players from their varsity roster just to get in the work and they barely beat the Blue Devils by one point.
This time, the Gusties won’t have some of their bigger guys but it will still likely be an offensive shoot-out. Juan Wilborn, who was recently named as the player-of-the-week for the division, had a career-high 38 points for the Blue Devils in the first meeting with the Gusties. In that game on Dec. 10th, Wilborn missed the potential winning shot at the buzzer in an 84-83 loss.
With most of the attention during the opening six weeks of the season centering on the Riverland women’s team after its 12-1 start and spot in the national rankings, the Riverland men will have the gym all to themselves on Saturday. The tip-off for the rematch with the Gustavus JV is scheduled for 1 p.m.
A few days of non-conference fun for local teams will soon be replaced by the rigors of their various conference schedules as the competition intensifies in the upcoming new year.