March 22, 2018 11:38 AM
(ABC 6 News) – The Austin Packers boys basketball has returned to the Class AAA state tournament for a second-straight year, and for a second-straight time, they’ll play in the semifinals.
The Packers defeated Sauk Rapids-Rice on Wednesday at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota, 64-55, advancing to Thursday’s semifinals.
“It’s a lot of fun (playing at Williams Arena),” Packers senior point guard Tate Hebrink said. “It’s a really loud atmosphere and it’s really fun when the crowd gets into it.”
The Packers outscored the Storm by six points in the second-half—an improvement from their close win over Northfield in the Section 1AAA championship, but they weren’t satisfied with how they played.
“Really, I liked the way we started the second-half, but I didn’t like the way it played out much after that,” Packers head coach Kris Fadness said. “We’ve talked about this as a team, we try to play to a high standard and we have to do a better job keeping our composure on the floor. I’m happy we got the win and proud of our guys for gutting it out, but at the same time, we need to play better.”
The Packers were led in scoring by senior Moses Issa, who scored 20 points—with a majority of those points coming in the second-half.
“In the first-half, I think I had state jitters,” Issa said. “I shook it off in the second-half.”
Defensively, Austin forced 23 turnovers on defense, which was practically spot-on for the norm in SPAMtown.
"We're averaging teams to turn it over 23 times a game, I see they turned it over 23 times,” Fadness said. “We're right about at our average there. When I break down the numbers, the numbers are right for us winning. At the same time, we've got to be a little bit better."
The Packers will play Delano in the Class AAA semifinals on Thursday at the Target Center, and Fadness said he hopes the big stage will add some positive energy for his team.
“We’re playing for a state championship. Survive and advance,” Fadness said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re happy with the win, but we’re playing for a state championship.”
“We’re in the state semifinals. If you can’t get pumped and excited right now, you’ve got problems. We’ll get it turned around and our guys will be jacked for tomorrow. I’m not too worried about that. I’m not a ‘rah-rah’ guy, these guys are pretty good at pumping each other up and getting each other going.”
Tipoff for Thursday’s semifinal game is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Updated: March 22, 2018 11:38 AM
Created: March 21, 2018 05:01 PM
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