Packers seek first trip to state in 30 years

Seedings have played out in the Class AAA, Section One boys basketball tournament with No. 1 Austin (22-5) playing No. 2 New Prague (19-9) on Friday night for the championship and a trip to state.

There is a bit of history on the basketball court between these two schools. Although they didn't play last year in the post-season, there have been a number of interesting games over the years.

Austin's last run to the section finals came back in 2007 and it started with a road win at New Prague in the first round. The Trojans got revenge by beating the Packers in their last tournament meeting two years ago in the section semifinals at New Prague.

They have also met during the regular season over the last few years. New Prague won at Austin in the 2010-2011 season. This season started with a 23-point win by the Austin boys at New Prague back on Dec. 6 of last year.

New Prague won the Section 1AAA title last year and went on to take fourth-place at the state tournament. Austin hasn't been to the state tournament since the 1981-82 season.


Both teams are on a bit of a roll coming into the section championship game. The Trojans have won four straight games. The Packers have won nine straight games and were ranked No. 5 in the state for the final regular season poll.

The road to the finals has been relatively easy for both teams. New Prague won its first round game by nine points over Waseca and then, hammered Albert Lea by 26 points in last weekend's section semifinals.

With their first two tournament games at home, the Packers barely broke a sweat in getting to the finals. They started with a 60-17 demolition of the Faribault Falcons and then, buried the Winona Winhawks in the section semifinals by 32 points.

The challenge now for the Austin boys is winning big games away from the Packer Gym. They finished with a perfect 13-0 record at home, but are just 9-5 away from Austin. The game on Friday night is at the neutral site of Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

"Support from the community has been unbelievable this season and the team thrives on the cheers of our fans," Packers coach Kris Fadness said after last Saturday night's win over Winona. "Now, we need those fans to come over to Rochester and fill up the Mayo Civic Center in a sea of red."

Winning section championships at the Mayo Civic Center is part of a family tradition for Packers center Joe Aase. His father, Lee Aase, was part of the 1980-81 team which won the section and finished runner-up at state. His sister, Rebekah, was on the 2007-08 Austin girls team which won the section title over New Prague on a last second shot.

Packers fans are hoping Joe Aase can add a section championship to his resume and guide the team to state. The Packers have made it this far with balanced team play. They don't simply rely on the shooting of Joe Aase, the inside prowess of Tom Aase, or the energetic backcourt play of point-guard Zach Wessels.

What makes the Packers so tough is the way all of the players fill their roles. Goliath Oboyo excels on the defensive press and ignites the team with his steals.


Nathan Schwab and Bret Lukes can hit key outside shots to highlight big scoring runs. Collin Weisert and Zach Vierkandt give the Packers a lift when they come in the game, so the team has a lot of weapons. The defense of the Trojans will have plenty to worry about in the title tilt.

It was just two weeks ago that the Packers and their fans shared in a wild celebration after winning the Big Nine Conference title. Coming up on Friday night, they try to capture an even bigger prize.

What To Read Next
Get Local