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Joe Aase of Austin blocked the shot of Blake's JR Bascom in a Class 3A quarterfinal game Wednesday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Austin defeated Blake 59-56. Photo: JERRY HOLT * jerry.holt@startribune.com

Things came pretty easily for Austin this season but when things got tough Wednesday, the undefeated Packers (29-0) showed grit. They rallyied from an 11-point second-half deficit to defeat Blake 59-56 in a Class 3A quarterfinal game Wednesday at Williams Arena.

“For 25 games, I really didn’t have to do anything,” Austin coach Kris Fadness said jokingly. “Now, I have to coach a little.”

Blake (22-8), making its first state tournament appearance in team history, was not fazed by the big stage. The Bears handled the taller Packers’ zone defense, using senior center Blaine Crawford  down low and forward J.R. Bascom up high to get quality shots. Bascom had eight points and Crawford six as the Bears took a 31-24 halftime lead.

“They really handled our zone,” said Fadness. “We may have panicked a little.”

Austin’s rally began early in the second half, right about the same time that senior forward and leading scorer Joe Aase got hot. The 6-foot-7 Aase shot over the top of the Blake defense, making four three-pointers after halftime en route to a team-high 20 points.

“He’s just a great shooter,” said Blake coach Sean Krueger. “You don’t find too many kids that tall with unlimited range.”

Despite the close call, Fadness was tickled that the Packers pulled out a tight game.

“I love how the way we did it,” he said. “It was players making plays. That says a lot.”

JIM PAULSEN

3 Stars

1. Joe Aase, Austin
Aase has one of the prettiest shooting strokes you will see for a guy his size. He's 6'8 but does most of his damage from the outside. He finished the game with 20 points to lead the Packers and also tied for the team lead with 8 rebounds. At times he looked like a high school version of Dirk Nowitzki, right down to his virtually unblockable step back jumper. 

2. JR Bascom, Blake 
Bascom is a very tough player on the inside and has a plethora of moves around the basket. He wasn't afraid to step back and hit an outside shot every now and then either. He led Blake with 17 points and tied for the team lead with 9 rebounds. 

3. Ajuda Nywesh, Austin
Nywesh was a spark plug off the bench and finished as Austin's second leading scorer with 15 points. His outside shooting was huge for the Packers as he went 3-3 from beyond the arc. He also was the main cog in the Austin half court press that gave Blake fits in the second half. That was evidenced by his 5 steals. 

-John Kelsey, MN Basketball Hub

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Tag(s): Featured  Star Tribune  Austin  Blake  Class AAA