It's not easy winning a WIAA state basketball championship like the Germantown boys did last year and its supposed to be a lot tougher to defend than the Warhawks made it look Friday night, when they rolled past Oshkosh North, 80-60, in a division I semifinal contest at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Coach Steve Showalter knows that the Warhawks' difficulties are just beginning as they now prepare fo the winner of Milwaukee King and Mukwonago in the 8:15 p.m. final on Saturday night.
"We've preached since day one, since these kids started playing for me, that we know that there are two good teams out there playing (in the other semifinal)," he said. "We're not stupid. We were riding high last year (going into the final after a big win over Madison Memorial) and Milwaukee King woke us up and reminded us that we would have to work for this thing (the championship)."
"So we'll work all night and all day (Saturday) to get ready to defend our title."
Germantown beat King, 72-69, for the championship last season.
The Warhawks (27-0), whose win streak has now hit 55 games, defeated a testy Spartans squad (23-4) through one of their lethal quarter-long explosions. North had ran well with Germantown in the first quarter, trailing only 22-20, but point guard Lamonte Bearden had served notice on North by draining a 28-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Warhawks a lead they would never surrender.
Then the dam broke in earnest in the second quarter, and just as he was in last year's semifinal win over Memorial, junior guard Jake Showalter was at the heart of it.
He found the Kohl Center three-point arc much to his liking again. He would hit six threes in the first half, including two in the first 1:32 of the second session, when Germantown took the lead from 22-20 to 34-24.
The Warhawks then followed that with a 12-3 run that made it 46-27 with 1:38 left in the half.
"We wanted to bust that 1-3-1 zone of theirs," said Jake Showalter. "I knew if I could set my feet I could get my shot off."
The lead would go to 52-32 at the half as Bearden again beat the buzzer with yet another long three.
"Those shots felt pretty good," said Bearden. "I knew I could beat the clock."
Jake Showalter would finish the first half with 18 points, and he got a lot of help from his long, tall partner, center Luke Fischer, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the session.
Earlier in the day, Fischer was named Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball, an honor he did everything to earn this night with a 32-point, 16-rebound and six blocked shot final line.
"The plan was to get inside touches to Luke and then Jake really heated it up in the first half," said Steve Showalter. "After that, things opened up and we were able to attack the basket again."
The lead got as large as 28 points in the second half (67-39) and though the Warhawks lost a little intensity late, the advantage never dropped below 18.
Aside from Fischer, Jake Showalter would finish with 21 points and Bearden with 13.
Fischer was honored and humbled by his award, which word of floated through the Kohl Center rafters quickly via Twitter.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "I can't really believe that I got it, because there are so many great players out there in this senior class. Duane Wilson (of Dominican), Matt Thomas (of Onalaska) and there are so many others. I'm very honored to be named Mr. Basketball."
So was his coach.
"I can't think of a more deserving kid," Steve Showalter said. "I thought we had the best player for what we were trying to do last year (in all-state guard Zak Showalter) and for what we try to do this year, he's (Fischer) the best player out there."
"He's humble, he never celebrates, except in volleyball (laughs), and I love his attitude. He just puts his head down and is ready to play every minute, which I love."
And Coach Showalter would love for Fischer and the Warhawks to get another win tomorrow night and become the first two-time champions in division I since Oshkosh West in 2006 and 2007.
He thought about the title last year and then extrapolated on how quickly the program has risen to the top in the last decade.
"I talked about it last year, coming to these games years ago (at state), with one (Zak) on one knee and another on the next (Jake) and wondering how we would get this all done," he said. "It's a wonderful feeling. I never imagined bringing a team to this court and then winning a championship and now to be in position to do it again, it's just a credit to all the youth programs and the great work they do in preparing the kids."
"We'll see how we do tomorrow."
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