Austin point guard Zach Wessels has led the Packers when they’ve needed him to this season. He will look to fill that role again when the Packers play in the state tournament Wednesday. -- Herald File Photo

Packers lean on their floor leader

Published 10:54am Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wessels has stepped up in the clutch

Ever since he started playing for the Packers, Zach Wessels has proven to be a clutch player.

There was the first round tournament game against Faribault his freshman year when he converted a lay-up and free throw to give Austin the lead for good in a comeback win. There was the time he scored 29 points as the Packers knocked off Mankato East earlier this season. And, there was Friday night when he poured in 19 points as Austin edged New Prague 43-41 to get to the Class ‘AAA’ state boys basketball tournament.

Austin head coach Kris Fadness knows what the Packers have in their sophomore point guard, and a lot of Austin’s game plan revolves around him.

“He’s really good. He’s a really competitive kid in practice and games,” Fadness said. “He has that rare ability to just make plays when they need to be made. When you have somebody like that, you put the ball in his hands when it needs to be in his hands.”

Although he’s playing with players that have played longer and have more experience than him, Wessels isn’t afraid to lead the way. In fact, he’s become more of a vocal leader as the season has gone one.

“I want to be the guy my teammates can count on. So far, it’s happened that way and they feed off my energy,” said Wessels, who is averaging 13.3 points, 4 assists and 3.7 steals per game. “I just have to play my game and that’s pretty much it.”

Wessels has boosted the Packers on both sides of the ball this year as his defense has lifted Austin’s full court press and his driving ability has opened up plenty of lanes.

“I think the guys look to him,” Fadness said. “He has a lot of strong leadership qualities to him, and he helps get other guys good looks the way he attacks the basket and the way he draws defenders. Because he can hurt you from all over the floor, he draws so much attention to get good looks.”

As the Packers prepare for the state basketball tournament, there’s a good chance the ball will be in Wessels’ hands early and often.

That’s a good thing for the Packers.

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