Packers win section title and head to state

Austin fans react to a basket Friday late in the second half of the Section 1AAA finals against New Prague at Mayo Civic Center Arena in Rochester. The Packers came from behind to beat New Prague with seconds left on the clock in a 43-41 win.

ROCHESTER — It was a storybook ending for the Austin Packers in Friday night's Section One, Class AAA championship game and they're off to state for the first time in 30 years.

After running the clock down for the final shot, the Packers executed a perfect play against the defense of the New Prague Trojans. Zach Wessels lofted a beautiful pass and Tom Aase slammed it home for a 43-41 win.

"We drew the play up and knew it would work," Tom Aase said. "Wessels made a perfect pass and doesn't hurt to get your first points with a dunk."


Actually, Tom Aase had tipped in an earlier basket and finished with four points, but it was a tough game for him. He had no points in the first half and Trevor O'Brien of the Trojans blocked a couple of his shots.

Coming off a nice backscreen from Goliath Oboyo to set up the winning shot, Tom Aase got the last laugh as the Packers advanced. O'Brien led all scorers with 21 points, but missed a free throw with 1:34 left that would've given his team the lead.

"When the ball swung back to the perimeter, they all chased Zach and I went to the hoop," Tom Aase said. "O'Brien was talking trash to me the whole game, so it was nice to send him home crying."

Although they carried off the championship trophy, this was no easy win for the Packers. The big crowd from Austin got a little nervous, when their boys struggled in the first half of this game at the Mayo Civic Center.

If not for the hot shooting of Collin Weisert off the bench, the Packers would've been in a world of hurt by halftime. Weisert hit a trio of 3-pointers to keep the Packers in the chase and they were  down by only three points at the break.

"I just wanted to help the team and didn't really think about shooting threes," Weisert said. "When that first one went in, then I just kept shooting. I was a little nervous in the second half, but we got the late spark. It was surreal at the end."

Wessels took control of the offense in the second half and scored 14 of his 19 points. His basket in the opening two minutes of the second half tied the game at 24-all.

The Trojans (19-10) came right back and retook the lead. They would stay on top until the closing minutes. The lead for the Trojans was as high as six points with eight minutes to play, but Wessels refused to let the Packers die.


A trey from Wessels brought the Packers to within two points with 5:18 to play. The sophomore point-guard added five rebounds, four assists, and three steals in the biggest win for Austin High in three decades.

"They were shooting well and we just had to bide our time, basketball is a game of runs," Wessels said. "I needed to step up in the second half, because I wanted to go to state. A lot of people came over to watch us play and we didn't want to disappoint them."

What almost left their fans in a state of disarray was the missed free throws by the Packers down the stretch. Down by two points with 3:38 to play, Wessels missed the front end of a bonus.

No worry as the Packers defense created a steal. Joe Aase got an open look and canned a long ball to put Austin on top 41-40 with 2:40 left. O'Brien later tied it with a free throw, but missed the second shot.

Holding on to the last possession, the Packers ran the clock down. Austin coach Kris Fadness used a couple of time-outs and took the last one with 13 seconds to play. He drew up the final play and Tom Aase delivered a trip to state.

"We've run that play before and it always seems to work," Fadness said. "I figured Tom would be free, because he wasn't doing much scoring. It was a good screen and a good delivery. New Prague gave us a battle and we had to earn every basket. The guys hung in there and it's about time we won a section title."

Austin (23-5) plays in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state tournament on Wednesday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.



Championship game



Trevor O' Brien 21, Jake Meyer 7, Luke Rynda 5, Joe Kneip 4, Nick Johnson 4, Sergio Najera 0.


Zach Wessels 19, Joe Aase 9, Collin Weisert 9, Tom Aase 4, Goliath Oboyo 0, Zach Vierkandt 2, Bret Lukes 0, Nathan Schwab 0.

Halftime:New Prague 24, Austin 21.

Free throws:New Prague 9-12, Austin 5-12.


Three-point goals:NP 4-11 (O'Brien 3, Rynda 1). AUS 6-17 (J.Aase 2, Weisert 3, Wessels 1).

Rebounds:NP 23 (Kneip 5); Austin 20 (Wessels 5).

Turnovers:NP 15, Austin 10.


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