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Red Wing's Ben Miller goes up hard for two points during the second half of the Wingers' 55-34 Section 1AAA championship-game loss to Austin Friday night. Miller's nine points was a team high for Red Wing. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

Boys Basketball: Wingers hit the wall, lose 1AAA title game

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ROCHESTER – Boasting the second-best defense in the class, and a head-to-head victory earlier this season, Austin entered Friday’s Section 1AAA championship game as the favorite to qualify for the state tournament.

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And despite a nine-point Red Wing run to close the first half, the Packers did just that, holding the Wingers to a season-low in points in a 55-34 victory. It’s the third-straight win for Austin in a section title game.

In the first meeting between the two teams, the Packers held the Wingers to 37 points in Austin. Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen thought getting out of the hostile environment that is the Austin gymnasium would help his team.

“The game in Austin, you’ve got a packed gym with people going crazy. They’ve lost like one game there in the last two years, so it’s tough there,” Doug Toivonen said. “I thought we would shoot better down here tonight. We got shots our kids have knocked down during the year.”

Red Wing had just one lead in the game, at 7-6, after Ben Munson connected on a three-point play with 11 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half. The and-one fired up the Wingers and their fans, but it seemed to simultaneously spark something in the Packers. Facing its first deficit, Austin reeled off 14 straight points, taking a 20-7 lead before Red Wing scored with 7:02 before halftime.

The Packers cooled off after that, scoring just twice more while the Wingers scored 13 of the final 17 points of the half, including two buckets each from Nick Powers and Ben Miller.

Whatever momentum Red Wing carried into the locker room stayed there as Austin effectively put the game away with a 10-point outburst to open the second half, stretching a 24-19 lead at the break into a 34-19 advantage with 14:41 to play.

“I thought at the end of the first half, ‘Hey, we’ve got some momentum going into halftime down five,’” said Doug Toivonen. “We got a stop and we come down and turn the ball over and I’m like, ‘Really? That’s how we’re going to start the half?’ And they went on a little run, and we knew we would have to answer. And we knew we had no chance to win the game if we didn’t shoot better. And you shoot, from three, 0-18, you’re not going anywhere.”

Travis Toivonen scored on consecutive possessions, but Gach Gach, who dominated parts of the second half, hit a 3-pointer almost a minute later to score his 10th point of the half.

Gach finished with 14 points, as did teammate Zach Wessels. Bret Lukes led the Packers with 15 points while none of the Wingers managed double figures. Miller scored nine, with Jon Sevlie (8) and Travis Toivonen (7) just behind him.

Three of Red Wing’s starters played their final game Friday as Sevlie, Powers and Isaac Toivonen will graduate this spring. It’s a group that their coach will greatly miss.

“I’ve got a really good group of kids. I’ve got a group of kids that works really hard,” Toivonen said. “And what makes it even tougher is I have two of my sons playing, I’ve coached these guys in travelling basketball, I know what they’re capable of and you so much want good things for them. And it hurts to see them so sad.

“And it’s not because they’re not trying,” Toivonen continued. “It’s just that that’s sports. Sometimes it just happens … it just wasn’t our night.”

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Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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