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Austin loses heartbreaker to No. 1 Becker in state quarterfinals

The Austin girls basketball team had a seven-point lead with just over 2 minutes left in regulation against No. 1 ranked Becker in the state quarterfinals. But it couldn't hold it.

Austin girls state basketball
Austin's Olivia Walsh goes up for a layup during the Packers' Class AAA quarterfinal against Becker on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at the Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

MINNEAPOLIS — That was about as painful as it gets for the Austin girls basketball team.

It happened on Wednesday morning in the Class AAA state girls basketball quarterfinals at the University of Minnesota's Maturi Pavilion.

Austin looked like it was about to shake up the state tournament, leading No. 1-ranked and seeded Becker by seven points with just over 2 minutes left in the game.

But it all slipped away.

Consecutive 3-point baskets by Becker's Adeline Kent got things started, then the Bulldogs took over with their forceful and hounding defense, forcing two crucial Austin turnovers.

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Becker finished the game on a 12-0 scoring run and beat the unseeded Packers 53-48.

"This hurts really bad," Austin senior center Reana Schmitt said. "We all wanted to win. But now we have to come back and fight tomorrow."

Austin, 24-6 and ranked seventh in the state, next plays in the consolation semifinals at 2 p.m. Thursday at Concordia University, St. Paul, taking on No. 4 seed Benilde-St. Margaret's. Becker (24-4) plays Mankato East, a 62-51 winner over BSM, in the semifinals.

Austin girls state basketball
Austin's Reana Schmitt walks off the court after the Packers dropped their Class AAA quarterfinal 52-48 to Becker on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at the Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

It was the third time in four years that Austin had reached the state tournament. For the second time in that span, the Packers showed up unseeded and playing the No. 1 ranked team in the state.

That Austin wasn't awarded one of the top five seeds was stunning to Becker coach Dan Baird, who coached the Bulldogs to the state championship one year ago.

Then, after watching Austin go blow to blow with his team all game, and seeming primed to beat his Bulldogs with 2 minutes left, Baird was all the more incredulous.

"We knew that Austin was a fantastic team," Baird said of a Packers bunch that spent a chunk of the season ranked No. 1. "For them to be our first-round matchup. . .I don't know what happened there or what's wrong with the process. But they are one of the best teams in Class AAA. We knew that coming in."

Austin certainly played like it. After a first half that was mixed with excellent play and obvious nerves by both of these quick and skilled teams, they settled in.

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What was provided in the final 18 minutes was scintillating basketball.

Austin rode some hot shooting by the Dudycha sisters especially -- twins Hope and Emma -- to hop on Becker. The Packers hit five 3-pointers in the second half, two each by the twins.

With 4:59 left in the game, Austin led 47-41 following a driving basket by Packers forward Olvia Walsh, who finished tied for scoring honors with Hope Dudycha with 12 points.

Schmitt followed that by hitting one of two free throws with 3:27 left.

And that would be it. Austin wouldn't score again.

Austin girls state basketball
Austin's Hope Dudycha drives to the basket during a Class AAA state quarterfinal on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

Not so for Becker. The Bulldogs got consecutive 3-point hoops from Kent to immediately put Becker firmly back in the game, now trailing just 48-47 with just over a minute left.

"I knew I just had to shoot with confidence," said Kent, one of a pack of quick and talented Becker guards. "When I got the ball in the right spot, I had to take it. Everyone on our team knows we can shoot."

While Becker did that, Austin attempted to squeeze away the clock, all while having one eye still on the basket. It didn't work, in large part because Becker didn't let it work. An outfit that is loaded with sturdy and fast athletes, they went to work, turning Austin over twice in the final 1:08 and never letting the Packers get a clean look at the basket.

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And on the other end, Becker closed with two driving hoops and two free throws. The win was theirs.

"We needed to take care of the ball better on every possession (to end the game)," said Walsh, an athletic junior forward who along with Schmitt had helped Austin get the better of it inside, Walsh finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds and Schmitt with eight and 13.

"We wanted to run time off the block, but we were unable to do it. And Becker was hitting shots that were contested. I think we played great, but it just wasn't enough. Becker hit huge shots at crunch time. Hats off to them."

Austin coach Eric Zoske felt like it should have been hats off to his team. Or at least that it would have been had it been able to execute down the stretch.

But against the top team in the state, he knew that would be no easy feat, even with his team up seven with 2:06 left.

"No, I never felt like it was in hand," Zoske said. "We talked about trying to keep the pedal to the metal to end the game. But we just couldn't get that one more bucket, that one more hit to end it."

Becker 53, Austin 48
BECKER (53)
Danielle Nuest 8 P, 2 3-PT; Maren Westin 15 P, 1 3-PT; Adeline Kent 13 P, 3 3-PT; Alexis Rose 8 P, 1 3-PT; Alexis Brown 7 P; Elizabeth Mackendanz 2 P.
AUSTIN (48)
Cassidy Shute 7 P; Reana Schmitt 8 P; Hope Dudycha 12 P, 2 3-PT; Emma Dudycha 9 P, 3 3-PT; Olivia Walsh 12 P, 1 3-PT.
Halftime: BECK 22, AUS 20.
Free throws: BECK 3-8, AUS 3-7.
Three-point goals: BECK 7, AUS 6.

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Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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