The biggest man in the bulding was not above kneeling down on the floor to sign autographs for the smallest of fans Saturday afternoon at Homestead High School.
But that's just life for Germantown's 7-0 center Luke Fischer after he and the Warhawks earned the right to defend their WIAA State Division 1 championship with a physical, 73-59, sectional final decision over De Pere Saturday afternoon before an estimated crowd of 2,700 fans.
The 26-0 Warhawks, now winners of 54 straight games, had been desiginated Fischer's team by coach Steve Showalter when the season started, a season oozing with expectations from the start.
Fischer had 19 points despite some very physical attention from the 22-4 Redbirds, and was his usual dominant defensive self underneath, but he was quick to dispense all the credit to his teammates for the achievement.
As the only returning starter off the 28-0 state champs of a year ago, he knew that he would need all the help he could get if the Warhawks were to return to the promised land of a year ago.
"LaMonte ( Bearden, who led all scorers with 22 points) did a great job," said Fischer. "I couldn't be more proud. He made the passes, he created, he hit the shots, he downed his free throws. Just a great game.
"And the guys coming off the bench like Brian (Bearden, LaMonte's brother) and Dearionte (Hudson); they come in and they just shut people down. They don't care about how many points they score. They're just concerned about how much they give up to the opposition."
With the victory, Germantown will now play Oshkosh North (23-3) in a 6:35 p.m. WIAA State D1 semifinal next Friday (March 8) at the Kohl Center in Madison.
The other semifinal will feature Mukwonago (22-4) versus Milwaukee King (22-4). Germantown beat King for the state title last season.
Coach Steve Showalter, who has been at the helm of all four of Germantown WIAA state tournament berths, was impressed and relieved after the effort.
"I haven't had a chance to really think about it (state) just yet," he said. "We've marched such a long march to get here. We turned it up enough to get it done, but it was draining. ...Something like this is why we do what we do.
"We'll prepare just like we're playing Cedarburg or Grafton (in the North Shore), because it's an honor being back here (at state)."
Showalter, Fischer and the Warhawks did what they did best to get back to state: They started fast.
Led by LaMonte Bearden, the Warhawks started the game on a 13-2 run that eventually led to a 19-14 advantage at the quarter.
"I don't know how people can actually stop him," said Showalter of Bearden. "It's really hard for teams to figure out a way to stop him and then find a way to stop Luke."
LaMonte, who transferred with Brian from Homestead to Germantown before the end of their sophomore year, said he felt in the flow right away.
"We knew we had to come out quick and start fast," he said. "A good start like that is everything to us."
But DePere, which has now played Germantown four times in the last three years (the Warhawks have won the last three), was ready and bounced back from the rough start.
When sophomore forward Brevin Pritzl hit a floater in the lane with 6:17 left in the half, the score was tied at 20 apiece. Pritzl would lead the Redbirds with 20 points.
But it would be the high point of the game for DePere.
Led by a fierce perimeter defensive effort, the Warhawks would then score the next eight points of the game. When LaMonte Bearden hit two free throws at the 3:59 mark, it was 28-20, Germantown.
"They're so familiar with us," said Fischer of the Redbirds. "We think that they've seen so many of our games that I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they were at every game we've played this year.
"When we would call out a play, they knew exactly what we were doing."
And Fischer, who had an up-and-down second period with seven points and also five turnovers, finished the second session strong with two buckets in the last 49 seconds to make it 38-28 at the break.
Showalter admitted that his big man was struggling at times and addressed that immediately in the lockerroom.
"Today was one of those days for him at times," said Showalter. "So the first thing I talked about (at the half) was asking Luke how could we help him lead us back to state?"
The answer was a little bit of everything. Fischer scored on his first shot of the second half and then later hit a pair of free throws to make it 45-35 with 5:30 left in the third.
But as he noted, it would be a team effort down the stretch. DePere made one last push as back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Spencer Mocarski (18 points) and junior guard Mitch Winter cut the margin to 49-45 with 3:27 left in the third.
However, the Warhawks displayed the heart of a champion by responding with nine straight points, including a hoop by Fischer, a clutch three from forward Evan Wesenberg (12 points) a drive by LaMonte Bearden and two more free throws from Fischer.
It was 60-47 at the end of the third. Germantown would stretch the lead up to 15 in the fourth and the Redbirds could draw no closer than nine in the final session.
Showalter praised the efforts of Wesenberg and fellow junior forward Jon Averkamp.
"Evan was huge today," he said. "He had a huge task in trying to stop Pritzl and he held him to around 20. It's such a valuable thing to have two 6-7 guys like that. They can do so much, and then we can bring in the smaller guys (like Hudson and Brian Bearden, who contributed 11 points).
"It gives us such an advantage."
"We feel pretty good about our play right now," said Wesenberg. "This was a tough team we had to play today. I thought we handled it pretty well. Now I hope we can just carry it on."
Which the big man in the middle understands, as Fischer posed for photos with happy teammates and the sectional championship plaque as well as with more tiny and appreciative fans.
"In its own way, this feels just as good as last year," Fischer said. "To be undefeated at this point and to have a target on our back is something that we've grown used to. You don't feel the pressure anymore.
"...This is the position we want to be in. We wouldn't have it any other way."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Baseball: Homestead gets best of Germantown again
- Baseball: Germantown baseball team outlasts Cedarburg, 3-2, in 11 innings
- Club versus prep sports: Kids need to make choices
- Finger's win over NSC champ Whitefish Bay a boost for Germantown "9"
- Germantown's Finger blanks North Shore baseball champ Bay, 2-0
- Talent still there for Germantown boys basketball program
- Errors, mental mistakes hurt Germantown baseball team
- Germantown softball program a success behind coaches Raguse, Barbiaux
- Homestead baseball team gets help from G'town mistakes in 10-4 win
- Averkamp's pitching sparks Germantown baseball team to tourney title