Veteran Nicolet boys basketball coach Paul Hepp probably knows his team did Germantown coach Steve Showalter and his defending state champion Warhawks a huge favor on Jan. 4, when they scared the heck of them in a 76-69 loss, the closest North Shore game of the year for Germantown.
And how did Showalter and the Warhawks pay Hepp and the Knights back in the regular season finale Thursday on Nicolet's senior night?
In a very rude and thoroughly impressive fashion, as Germantown scored the first eight points of the game and never gave Nicolet a chance to breath as the Warhawks won their 50th game in a row with a 99-45 demolition.
"It's like I told our guys," said Hepp. "It wasn't a revenge game for them because we didn't beat them (back in January), but they just wanted to show how good they really are and they did."
And in doing so, Germantown continued a season-long trend of showing up and playing great against very good competition, because these Knights (9-5 in North Shore play and 14-8 overall) had won six in a row, had held their last four opponents to under 50 points and had won 13 of their last 16 going into this contest.
Yes, said Showalter, the Knights had gotten his attention in a big way with that harrowing January contest.
"Since Nicolet played us that tough, since (Whitefish) Bay played us that tough (the second time around), they forced us to work on stuff," said Showalter. "We're much better now. We're now ready for stuff like the 2-3 zones teams have been throwing at us."
"Thank you for making us better."
"And I'm not being disrespectful when I say that. I respect the heck out of the job Paul has done at Nicolet. In fact, it wasn't all that long ago we were on the other side of games like this against them. They just did really force us to get better."
That is very bad news indeed for the rest of the state, as the 22-0 Warhawks head into WIAA tourney play with the idea of repeating the state title they won last season. WIAA tourney play for Germantown and Nicolet begins next Friday with regional semifinals.
The victory was also the 45th in a row for the Warhawks in North Shore play as they put the final touches on their fourth NSC crown in a row and sixth in the last seven years. They have also now had two unbeaten regular seasons in a row.
One thing Showalter wanted to do in this game was establish all-state center Luke Fischer in the post. Germantown succeeded at that, as the 6-11 Fischer scored 13 of his game-high 32 points in the first quarter.
The Knights were dealt a crippling blow just 36 seconds into the game, when their tallest, strongest player, 6-5, 210-pound Tyler Miller, picked up his second foul. Miller sat the rest of the first quarter and a good chunk of the second.
"To have their best guy go out that early really hurt them," said Showalter. "I know if Luke (Fischer) had gone out that quickly, the game might have been much different."
Hard to imagine that though, because the Warhawks were absolutely on fire in the first half. Forcing turnovers with the press, dominating the boards, it was 8-0, then 16-5, and finally 25-11 by quarter's end.
Then in the second period, the Warhawks ended all drama by scoring the session's first 12 points to make it 37-11. It was 55-20 at the half.
Germantown hit six of its first seven shots in the first quarter and eight of its first nine in the second as Fischer finished with 22 points at the half.
Like everybody else in the gym knew, Hepp realized that his team had ran straight into a buzzsaw. A motivated and talented buzzsaw.
"They just have so many guys who can hit the 15-foot jumpshot," he said, "and that really spreads the defense when you're also trying to defend a 7-footer like Fischer."
"It's not shameful to lose to a team like Germantown, but I was a little disappointed in our execution at times and that also affected our attitudes. One positive out of this, is that this gave us some juice and a little more motivation to get ready for the (WIAA) tourney."
Nicolet was led by Greg Pigg with 15 points and Jerry Luckett with 11.
Meanwhile, the magnitude of what his team accomplished was not lost on Showalter as his son Jake added 12 points and Lamonte and Brian Bearden as well as Dearionte Hudson all had eight apiece. A total of 13 players scored for the Warhawks this night.
"I'm really proud of the boys for 22 in a row," Coach Showalter said of the season. "It's great that they accomplished something that not many people in history can say they did, win every game in the regular season."
"And 50 (in a row)? That's a number I can't even fathom."
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