It's hard being the king.
Germantown's 7-0 Indiana-bound center Luke Fischer chuckles when that idea is mentioned to him, but it has a grain of truth to it. His Warhawk basketball team has established a record of such dominance over the last two-and-a-half seasons (65-2 record) that' it's not enough for the team just to win, but it has to earn style points too.
And that means pleasing notoriously hard-to-please Coach Steve Showalter.
Take a moment from Thursday night in the Warhawks' 72-51 win over border rival Homestead, a victory that improved the top-ranked in state Germantown squad to 13-0 on the season and 8-0 in North Shore play.
It was the third quarter and a few moments earlier the Warhawks had extended their 44-23 halftime lead to 52-25 and were well on their way to cruising towards another blowout win.
But the Highlanders (5-3, 9-7) had other ideas. With Germantown point guard LaMonte Bearden on the bench with three fouls, the Warhawks halfcourt offense got stagnant.
The Highlanders also turned up the pressure on the defense (forcing three turnovers in a row at one point) and went on a 13-2 run that closed the gap to 54-38 with 2:20 left.
Showalter used a rarely-called timeout to re-assert a little order and at one point in the huddle snapped his head in Fischer's direction and barked "Act like a leader!"
"Oh yeah," said Fischer. "His eyes were locked squarely on me, but that's just the way he is sometimes and we understand why. We don't like it either when 25-point leads drop to 15 (or four in the case of an eventual seven-point victory over Nicolet last Friday), we like to bump that up to 20."
Or like one of Showalter's assistants said walking out to his car in the odd mid-winter rain after the game, "We need to have that hands around the throat mentality a little more often."
That attitude was seen in routs of very good teams like Whitefish Bay, East Troy and Arrowhead earlier in the year and even Fischer, who finished with 19 points on the night, expected more this evening. This was despite the fact that he had bumped knees with a teammate in practice last week and is dealing with a little fluid on the knee as a result.
"We expect perfection again (like the 28-0 state championship season of a year ago)," he said, "and it's what he (Showalter) expects too."
The 20-2 run that extended from the end of the first quarter to the middle of the second and expanded a tenuous 14-11 lead to a 34-13 advantage provided some of what Showalter wanted. The second line that featured guards Dwayne Lawhorn Jr., Brian Bearden and Dearionte Hudson, was highlighted for its efforts in that outburst.
Another moment of spectacular correction came after that heated third quarter time-out. Homestead cut it to 54-40 on a bucket by Jerrod Walton immediately after the time-out, but then the Warhawks went on a 6-2 run to close out the third including an electrifying follow-up dunk by Fischer.
It was 60-42 at the end of the third quarter and the margin never dropped below 18 in the final stanza.
"It's hard sometimes, I don't know what else to say," said Showalter. "They're kids and they're reaping the rewards of the work that groups before them put in. They also just happen to be doing pretty well themselves or so people like you (in the media) tell them (laughs)."
"But it's hard to keep pushing their buttons (keeping them motivated). All I can do is keep coaching them up, so tonight I reminded them that it was Homestead-Germantown and that that game is still always a battle."
Highlander coach Kevin McKenna wished it had been more of a battle.
"It seemed like they shot something like 70 percent in the first quarter and 90 percent in the second (actually 55 and 50 percent respectively)," said McKenna. "We just didn't have too many contested shots (for them). We weren't hitting or bumping them as they went down the lane."
"We were able to do some good things (defensively) for a few minutes at a time, but not for 32 minutes and we're still waiting to get that kind of effort.. We also didn't hit a lot of shots tonight, but they (the Warhawks) have a way of taking you out of the things that you like to do."
Jake Showalter joined Fischer with 19 points for Germantown on the strength of five three-pointers while Lamonte Bearden finished with 14 and Hudson and Brian Bearden had seven each.
Homestead was led by Luke Worthington with 10, while Joe Binyoti had eight and Luke Mueller seven.
Motivation, like what was shown in the strong stretch in the first half, is what Coach Showalter wants to see more of.
"That team (the Highlanders) was a caged tiger and I thought that we handled it pretty well," said Showalter said. "It wasn't beautiful. We just need to play better than what we did in the third quarter."
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