Clash of the titans

Published 7:01 am Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Breaking down an epic Packer showdown


As we enter another sports shutdown, it’s time to take a look back at two of the most exciting teams to grace Packer Gym. I’m offering my take on who would win if the gritty Packer boys of 2012-2013 faced off against the high flying, alley-oop tossing Packers of 2016-17.

The Packers have played in 31 state tournaments and all of those teams have been gifted and talented, but these two teams stand out in the recent resurgence of Packer hoops and I was along for the ride on both of their state runs.

Email newsletter signup

The 2012-2013 Packers went 30-1 overall and they lost to DeLaSalle 50-33 in the Class AAA title game. The Packers trailed 40-30 in the championship bout with 6:41 left, when the Islanders put it away by stalling and hitting free throws.

They showed a relentless attitude throughout the postseason as they erased an 11-point deficit against The Blake School in the state quarterfinals and they won in overtime against Marshall in the state semifinals and against Red Wing in the Section 1AAA title game.

The 2017-2018 Packers went 29-3 overall and they lost to DeLaSalle 72-44 in the Class AAA state title game.

Austin was within 29-23 one minute before halftime in that contest, but DeLaSalle answered with a 12-0 spurt. The Islanders featured University of Northern Iowa senior Goanar Mar, current Gopher Gabe Kalscheur and Tyrell Terry, who was just drafted by the Dallas Mavericks with the No. 31 pick after one year at Stanford.

An undersized Austin team blasted Marshall 73-53 in the state semifinals after they edged out Saint Thomas Academy 55-49 in the state quarterfinals.

Both Packer teams had a strong work ethic, strong leadership and plenty of playmakers. The 12-13 team has a big size advantage, but the 16-17 team has a depth advantage. To make things clearer, we’ll look at each matchup individually.

Point guard: Zach Wessels (14.9 points, 4.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game) vs. Tate Hebrink (9.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2 assists per game)

Wessels is Austin’s reigning all-time leading scorer, but his biggest strengths were his uncanny ability to lift his teammates up and play with a fire that can’t be taught. He played at Division II University of Sioux Falls for four years after high school and had a successful run.

Hebrink was a sharpshooting play-maker who served as the conductor of the runaway train offense that the fast-breaking Packers loved to run. He is currently playing at Valley City State University, and he’s also had basketball stops at UW-River Falls and Riverland Community College.

While both players are effective, Wessels is one of the best athletes and leaders to come through AHS and I’m giving the nod to the 12-13 Packers here.

Shooting guard: Bret Lukes (8.1 points, 2 assists and 1.7 steals per game) vs. Both Gach (15.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game)

If anyone mastered the art of playing within themselves, it was Lukes, who possessed solid ball handling skills and a nice shooting touch. He also was never one to back down, no matter who he was matched up with. Lukes went on to play a role for Hamline University for years after high school.

Both was a top-flight athlete who also had the awareness of running an offense and keeping his teammates happy. Both is just getting started with his junior year on the Minnesota Gophers after two successful seasons with the Utah Utes.

Lukes would give it all he’s got, but Both, who is easily the best Packer in at least 20 years, dominates this matchup for the 16-17 squad.

Small forward: Collin Weisert vs. Duoth Gach (15.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.7 steals per game)

Weisert was another hard worker who would play solid defense and hit the occasional wide open look. Duoth was a dynamic human highlight film that fluttered social media and the local news with an array of twisting, turning, mouth-dropping jams. He also had a sweet shooting stroke from the corners.

Weisert never played college ball after his run with the Packers. Duoth was named Mon-Dak Player of the Year and an All-American after his second second at NJCAA Division North Dakota State College of Science last year, but he is currently not on a college roster.

No matter what Weisert did, Duoth would have his way in this matchup.

Power forward: Joe Aase (17 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game) vs. Oman Oman (8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game)

Aase was a prototype stretch four who could knock down any shot within 30 feet of the hoop. If you left him, he was going to make you pay for it. Oman, who made it to ESPN with his full court heave to beat Northfield at the buzzer, was an effective scorer who could get tough in the paint at times.

Aase played one year at Division I Davidson University before transferring to Minnesota State University in Mankato, where he didn’t see much playing time. Oman played at NDSCS for two years.

Aase’s size and skill give him some pretty big advantages against Oman, who’s best bet would be to limit his offensive efforts and focus on stopping Aase. The advantage goes to Aase and the 12-13 Packers.

Center Tom Aase (11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2 steals per game) vs. Kyle Oberbroeckling (5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game)

Tom was a shot blocking, defensive standout who protected the rim, while also serving as an effective offensive player. Oberbroeckling was a hard working player who wasn’t afraid to get in the paint and get physical. Tom played for University of Sioux Falls for four years, where he developed into one of the top shot blockers in the Northern Sun Conference. Oberbroeckling never played any college hoops, and he likely wouldn’t have much luck against Tom. Advantage, 12-13 Packers.

Sixth man: Ajuda Nywesh (7.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game) vs. Moses Issa (6.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game)

Nywesh didn’t fully come into his own until his senior year, but he was an effective scorer who could catch fire at any moment for the 12-13 Packers. Issa was a physical player who could get up and down the court and finish at the rim.

Nywesh played college ball at Lake Region College, the University of Tennesee-Martin and Minnesota State-Moorehead and has played professionally overseas. Issa has seen limited action at the NJCAA Division I level.

While Nywesh is a tough cover for Issa, the 16-17 Packers had much more depth and athleticism — including Ngor Deng and Dongrin Deng. The bench advantage goes to them.

With all of the comparisons out of the way, I’m going to make the call that the 12-13 Packers use their ball control and defense to keep 16-17 Packers out of the highlight film and in the half court offense. In a battle of two of Austin’s finest teams, the 12-13 Packers win by a tight margin of 54-48.

If anyone has another matchup that they would like me to ‘predict,’ just let me know via twitter @RockyHulneADH or e-mail at My only qualfiier is the teams have to have had an equal run in the tournament.