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Packers packed and ready for semifinals

MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Aase and his Austin teammates packed suitcases with enough clothes for a four-day trip to the Twin Cities.

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Austin fans cheer for the Packers in a game plays Blake in the quarterfinals of the boys Class AAA state basketball tournament.

MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Aase and his Austin teammates packed suitcases with enough clothes for a four-day trip to the Twin Cities.

Whether they got to unpack all depended on the outcome of Wednesday's Class AAA quarterfinal against Blake at Williams Arena.

Win and move on for two more guaranteed games. Lose and it's back to Austin, and back to school.

And?

"We get to unpack,'' said Aase, grinning. "Unlike last year.''

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Last year the Packers were defeated and eliminated from the tournament in the same round by Saint Paul Johnson.

Wednesday, somehow, someway, Austin defeated Blake 59-56, but at this time of year, no one is talking about style points.

"We scratched, we clawed and now we move on,'' said Austin coach Kris Fadness.

The 29-0 and No. 2 seeded Packers meet No. 3 Marshall (28-2) at 2 p.m. today in a AAA semifinal at Target Center.

Top seeded Minneapolis DeLaSalle (28-1) and Saint Paul Johnson (22-7) also won their quarterfinal games and meet in the other AAA semifinal.

The championship game is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, also at Target Center.

"For 25 games this year I didn't have to do much coaching,'' Fadness said, half joking, "and now these last three games I'm having to call time outs and calling out plays at the end.

"It hasn't been easy.''

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No, it hasn't. In the Section One, Class AAA semifinal two weeks ago, the Packers edged Winona on a last-second shot and last week beat Red Wing in the section championship, but it took overtime.

Against Blake, the Packers trailed by 11 (39-28) with 14 minutes and things didn't look so rosy. That's the biggest deficit they've faced all year.

"The big thing,'' said Fadness, "is that we didn't panic. At that point of the game it would have been easy to do but we have a Division I player and a sixth man off the bench who never quit or gave up.''

The Austin coach was talking about Joe Aase and Ajuda Nywesh, who came off the bench to score 15 points.

And if you had to pick a player of the game, it would have to go to the 5-10 junior guard.

"He was all over the place,'' said Aase. "We fed off of him.''

Nywesh was 4 of 6 from the field (3 of 3 on 3-point plays) and made 4 of 5 free throws. He also grabbed 6 rebounds and finished with 5 steals, all in the second half when the Packers started to put pressure on Blake.

"I was just playing my game,'' said a modest Nywesh. "I know we needed to make some stops so I just got my hands in there the best I could.''

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Slowly but surely, the Packers whittled down the score. They got within five with 9:51 left and three at 43-40 when Joe Aase connected on a 3-pointer with 7:07 left. He finished with 20 points and made 5 of 12 3-pointers.

He said his biggest 3-pointer came with Blake holding that 11-point lead.

"We couldn't afford to get much further behind,'' he said. "I was struggling with my shot. I had some good looks but they just weren't dropping.

"Fortunately that one did.''

With 6:49 left, Tom Aase scored on a layup to cut the lead to 45-42 but Blake pushed the lead to seven after Austin guard Zach Wessels was forced to the bench with four fouls.

"It wasn't easy to sit him,'' said Fadness.

Joe Aase hit another 3-pointer with 4:52 left and Bret Lukes chipped in with a pair of pivotal free throws, narrowing Blake's lead to a pair at 49-47.

Blake went back on top by four but Nywesh hit maybe the most important shot of the day, a 3-pointer with 2:56 left.

"He's really gained a lot of confidence this year,'' said Fadness, "and that showed. He's a very good athlete. Yes, we needed that shot.''

Tom Aase tied the game at 52 with a pair of three throws and then Nywesh stole the ball, was fouled and put the Packers ahead 54-52 for good.

How good was that?

"We had a bunch of contributors,'' said Fadness. "Blake played us tough. We got off to a good start (Austin led 25-6) but they did a nice job in breaking down our zone and got back in the game.''

Blake, which finished 22-8, led 31-24 at halftime.

"This,'' said Fadness, "feels really, really good. We were down but not out. I couldn't be more proud of the kids.''

Austin 59, Blake 56

BLAKE (22-8)

Bascom, JR 8-16 1-1 17; Veil, John 4-6 1-3 11; Crawford, Blaine 4-9 3-6 11;Johnson, Kebu 5-7 0-3 10; Augustine, John 1-3 0-0 3; Smith, Alex 1-3 0-0 2;Curran, Johnny 0-3 2-2 2; Mahoney, Tom 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 7-15 56.

AUSTIN (29-0)

Aase, Joe 7-17 1-4 20; Nywesh, Ajuda 4-6 4-5 15; Wessels, Zach 2-3 5-8 9;Aase, Tom 2-5 4-4 8; Weisert, Collin 1-3 2-2 5; Lukes, Bret 0-4 2-2 2; Gach,Gach 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16-40 18-25 59.

Blake.............. 31 25 — 56

Austin........................ 24 35 — 59

3-point goals— Blake 3-9 (Veil, John 2-2; Augustine, John 1-3;Smith, Alex 0-1; Curran, Johnny 0-2; Bascom, JR 0-1), Austin 9-21 (Aase, Joe5-12; Nywesh, Ajuda 3-3; Weisert, Collin 1-2; Lukes, Bret 0-1; Gach, Gach0-2; Aase, Tom 0-1). Fouled out— Blake-Veil, John; Bascom, JR,Austin-None. Rebounds— Blake 29 (Johnson, Kebu 9; Bascom, JR 9),Austin 27 (Aase, Joe 8; Wessels, Zach 8). Assists— Blake 12(Curran, Johnny 4), Austin 12 (Wessels, Zach 3). Total fouls— Blake20, Austin 16. Technical fouls— Blake-None, Austin-None.

Hayfield done in by Esko

Second-half comeback puts Austin in Class AAA semis

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