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'Hoping morning never comes' as Germantown wins state hoops title

March 17, 2012

Father and son, the latter sitting in the other's lap, 15-16 years ago in Madison, watching a WIAA state basketball tournament, wondering how it was all done.

How do you win a state championship?

If you're coach Steve Showalter and his senior all-state son Zak Showalter of the new division 1 state champion Germantown boys team, you begin with "bricks and mortar," building it piece by piece from the time the former took the Warhawks job 12 years ago, to a warm, endlessly happy Saturday night in Madison.

To a moment when both got to enjoy the fruits of many labors past with a bloodied warrior's shield worth of effort in a 72-69 state championship win over second-ranked Milwaukee King (24-2) at the Kohl Center in Madison.

"I really hope that morning never comes," said Steve Showalter, when asked what he would do the next day. "Without crying, this is the greatest basketball moment in my life. The most amazing thing ever, and to share it with my eldest son (Zak) and both my sons (sophomore Jake included) is an incredible feeling. All the guys on this team are my boys and I treat them all alike.

"It's just been a magical ride, so good, that I can't imagine any father having a more enjoyable time than we've had together doing this."

"This is unbelievable," said Zak Showalter. "The best feeling in my life. So many practices since fifth grade. So much sweat, so much blood that all 15 of us put into this. Just the most remarkable thing in my life."

The first thing the senior said to the father after the game: "I love you."

The first thing the father said to the senior afterwards: "I love you."

But sometimes love is tough and a small, talented, amazingly scrappy King team made the Warhawks work for their 28-0 history-making first state championship.

Moments after senior point guard Josh Mongan hit two free throws with 6.9 seconds remaining to make it 72-69, King came down in a rush and launched two three-pointers, one from the left and another from the right, the latter of which caught iron and fell off.

"I thought it was going to be like the Appleton East game (the stunning super sectional loss of a year ago)," said Zak. "I said 'no, it can't happen like that again. We've earned this!'"

His night's work would include 22 total points, including 15 of 18 free throws, many of them coming in a fourth quarter, when the Warhawks would push the lead to five and six on a couple of occasions but would never feel truly comfortable until the final buzzer.

Mongan would also have four assists and one steal on the night.

All told, Germantown would hit 15 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter and 29 of 37 for the game (as compared to five of 10 for King), but shot only one of seven from the field in the stanza, a critical three-pointer from Mongan that broke a 54-all tie with 6:22 left.

Germantown would never trail again as Mongan's night of trial working against the relentless King press ended with nine points, three assists and one steal. He never came off the floor.

"I kept thinking that the buzzer would go off, but it didn't," said junior center Luke Fischer. "I thought the six seconds were up a long time ago, but when I saw that last shot go up my heart skipped a beat. Then it missed."

Fischer would work hard too, finishing with 19 points, five rebounds and two blocks. He had to redouble his efforts early, as Zak Showalter had to sit much of the first half with two fouls.

"I knew that we could ride him home if we had to," said Steve Showalter of the Indiana-bound Fischer.

It was as Steve Showalter said "a war all night" as King came with its trademark relentless full-court pressure, the likes of which the high-intensity Warhawks had never seen this season.

"We made several adjustments, we tried different things," said Steve Showalter. "We tried to use Luke (and his 6-11 height) as an advantage, and they really didn't have an answer for him.

"I told the guys 'don't make me go up there (to the Kohl Center press table) and make me explain that we weren't ready for that pressure," but it was a battle every trip up the floor. It was a war just to get the ball over halfcourt."

Germantown, which trailed by as many as seven in the first half, finished with 20 turnovers, seven more than King.

But all those little mistakes were forgotten as the Warhawks' hard work found its reward.

And again, Steve Showalter visited that moment all those years ago, when his son sat on his lap, before the boy was big enough to get his own seat at the Fieldhouse, later the Kohl Center.

And the father wondered how he could do this, how he could make this all work? How he could create a tradition where there had been none before, give pride and honor and victories to a program where little of that had existed before?

"I sat there (at state) and watched teams do this over and over again," he said. "How does this work? I realized that playing was the easy part. I've done that myself, but to get a group of 15 kids and to get them to do all the right things, to get them to go to school and get to bed at night on time everyday (is just very hard).

"Yes, playing was the easy part, they'll realize that someday. We had to start from the ground up, brick-by-brick. A lot of work went into it."

Something the senior son understands.

"I've never been around a group this amazing," Zak said. "A group as amazing and cool off the court as they were on the court. ...What we've done together and the bonds that we've built, I'll remember for the rest of my life."

And well past the morning.

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