Paul Christian: Home sweet home for Austin seniors

As a motivation ploy, Kris Fadness could easily have used the "playing your final home game of your high school careers'' for his five Austin seniors.

But that wasn't necessary.

"They knew,'' Fadness said. "I didn't have to say a thing.''

Bret Lukes, Ajuda Nywesh, Zach Wessels, Curtis Oberbroeckling and Jacob Kempen all played their final home games on Saturday, and they closed out in fashion, defeating New Prague 79-64 in a Section One, Class AAA semifinal.

"I thought about it,'' said Nywesh, "but not a whole lot. Our focus was on New Prague and not much else.''


"It crossed my mind,'' said Wessels. "How can you not, to realize that after four years, it was going to be over.

"It may have been our final game at home, but we didn't want it to be the final game of our career. I can't imagine that.''

The Packers will be gunning for their third straight Section 1AAA title and a trip to state on Friday night when they take on Red Wing (8 p.m.) at Mayo Civic Center.

Wessels has played varsity for four years, and started for the first time right after the Christmas break.

Lukes has practiced with the varsity for four years but did not start until his junior year.

Nywesh started a couple of games last year, but mostly served in the sixth-man category. This year he has started every game.

Wessels, Lukes and Nywesh have been at this for a long time; they started playing together in fifth grade. The Packers have won three straight Big Nine championships and finished second a year ago in the Class AAA state tournament, losing to Minneapolis De La Salle in the championship game.

Austin is 78-10 in the last three years, and during that time HAS lost only once at home.


"The fans and the support we get has been tremendous,'' Wessels said. "We really feel comfortable playing at home.''

If pressed, Wessels and Nywesh said last year's "Pink Out'' game against Rochester John Marshall was one of the most memorable home games they have played.

"The atmosphere that night was amazing,'' Nywesh said. "I'll never forget it.''

He'll remember Saturday's game against New Prague (29 points) for a long time, too.

"It's always fun in front of our fans,'' he said.

Lukes, Wessels and Nywesh are all averaging right around 14 points per game. All three have led the Packers in scoring at least once this year.

No doubt, there is a definite home-court advantage playing in the Packers gym. The students are above being noisy.

"Everyone of our seniors have had some memorable games at home,'' said Fadness. "It's going to be strange not having them around next year, that's for sure.''


Kempen doesn't get as much playing time as the other seniors, and Fadness made sure he was on the court when the final buzzer rang on Saturday night.

"They've had a lot of success here,'' he said. "Hopefully, they'll be around for a few more games.''

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