Column: Wessels is more than just a scorer

Published 9:17 pm Monday, February 25, 2013

Austin's Zach Wessels puts up a shot while driving inside during the first half Thursday night against Rochester John Marshall in Packer Gym. -- Herald File Photo

Austin’s Zach Wessels puts up a shot while driving inside earlier this season against Rochester John Marshall in Packer Gym. — Herald File Photo

Austin junior basketball player Zach Wessels recently became the fourth Packer to reach the 1,000-point scoring mark in a win over Rochester John Marshall Saturday. Despite his point production, if you simply called Wessels a scorer, you’d be grossly inaccurate.

Wessels, who has started at guard since he was a freshman and took over at point guard last season, has served as the Packers’ go-to guy in tough situations, the player who is responsible for getting his teammates open shots and he spearheads the Packer zone defense, where he has forced plenty of turnovers over the past few years.

It was Wessels who threw the alley-oop to Tom Aase last season to send the Packers to state for the first time in 30 years and it was Wessels who hit a game-winning shot against Albert Lea in double overtime earlier this season.

Email newsletter signup

Wessels is capable of putting up big points on any given night, but he’s more than happy to distribute the ball and get one of Austin’s many shooters going.

“If I’m scoring more or passing more, I just want to win,” Wessels said. “I think I’ve been able to see (when I have to take over) for awhile.”

Wessels and the Packers are in the middle of a memorable run as they have yet to lose a game. They’re ranked No. 2 in the Class ‘AAA’ and they have a chance to go 25-0 in the regular season with a win at Owatonna Friday at 7:30 p.m.

While some would wilt under the pressure of a lengthy unbeaten streak, Wessels and the Packers, who are outscoring opponents 71.0 to 48.4 this year, aren’t sweating it.

“There’s supposed to be a lot of pressure on us, but we’re having fun and focusing on it one game at a time,” he said. “It’s never fun to lose.”

The team is ready to play some elimination games when the Section 1AAA tournament begins next Wednesday. Austin’s section is solid this season as five teams have winning records and three of them — Red Wing, Winona and AL — all gave Austin good tests during the regular season.

Wessels and the Packers still recall how their season ended last season when St. Paul Johnson used its speed to knock off Austin in the first round of the state tournament.

The Packers are looking forward to the chance of getting back to state.

“It’s gonna be fun,” Wessels said. “Our goal is a state championship. We’ll have to be in better shape and we will be.”

Besides trying to win a state title, there’s also one more thing Wessels would like to do in his career with the Packers. He’d like to be able to surpass Joe Aase, who is headed to Division Davidson College next season, as Austin’s all-time leading scorer.

It’s likely Wessels will let Aase know if that happens.

“Joe and I are good friends and when I do it, it’ll be fun to talk a little trash about it,” Wessels said.

Until then, Wessels will be focused on doing what it takes to get the Packers over the hump.

It should be a fun ride.