Austin's Tom Aase tried to score over Marshall's Aaron Mathiowetz in the first half of their teams' Class 3A semifinal game Thursday at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES * firstname.lastname@example.org
It was overtime and undefeated Austin had one of its big men, Tom Aase, on the bench with five fouls and the other, Joe Aase, in a funk and struggling with his shot.
This, thought teammate Zach Wessels, was his time.
Wessels, a smooth 6-foot-2 junior guard, scored four points in overtime, including a clutch three-point play. He also handled Marshall’s desperation pressure with poise to help the Packers improve to 30-0 with a 68-65 victory.
“The team feeds off me and my energy,” said Wessels, who finished with 20 points, six assists and four steals. “It’s my job to step up and make sure everybody’s pumped up and ready to play.”
For one half, it appeared that Marshall’s balanced attack was going to put an end to Austin’s dream season. With a lineup of interchangeable parts, the Tigers used endless motion to find holes in the Austin zone. Marshall shot 70.6 percent from the field in the first half to take a 30-28 halftime lead.
“We knew Marshall would give us problems,” Austin coach Kris Fadness said. “They’ve got really good players who can all shoot, all handle the ball. They spread the floor well and found ways to attack our zone.”
The teams punched and counter-punched throughout the second half, which featured 11 lead changes and seven ties. Austin led 56-54 in the final minute after two free throws by Ajuda Nywesh. Then Marshall tied the score 56-56 on an athletic runner by Tanner Bukowski with 37 seconds left.
Austin took control in overtime, scoring seven of the first nine points, highlighted by Wessels’ three-point-play, and was never headed.
“It’s been close in our last three games,” Wessels said. “We just know how to win, I guess.”
1. Zach Wessels, Austin
Wessels made some huge shots and led the team with 20 points to help Austin pull out the win in overtime. He made a few circus shots that resulted in 3 point plays, including one in overtime that put the Packers up by 5 with just over a minute left. He was 7-11 from the field and had 6 assists and 4 steals while playing all 40 minutes.
2. Tanner Bukowski, Marshall
Bukowski was Marshall's leading scorer with 16 points and hit the shot that sent the game to overtime in the final minute. He was a huge source of energy for Marshall all game and he played great defense to keep Joe Aase in check. He was 6-10 from the field and added 4 steals.
3. Tom Aase, Austin
Aase was a force on both ends of the floor for the Packers. He scored 16 points on 7-11 shooting and it seemed like every basket he scored was an important one. He also was a big factor on the defensive end, finishing with 4 blocks and 5 defensive rebounds.
-John Kelsey, MN Basketball Hub