As Wisconsin's newly-minted Mr. Basketball, Germantown center Luke Fischer was a keenly aware observer of the going's-on late in the second WIAA Division 1 semifinal between Mukwonago and Milwaukee King Friday night at the Kohl Center in Madison.
And when it became apparent that the 27-0 Warhawks, who had earned the right to defend their title with a surprisingly easy 80-60 victory over Oshkosh North in the early semifinal, were not going to get the highly-anticipated rematch of the 2012 final with King, Fischer just nodded his head and said:
"That very interesting."
Yes, it is, as the only ones who expected the party-crashers from Mukwonago to beat the powerful City Conference co-champion Generals were the Indians themselves and their fans, as they used a balanced attack, poise against the King press and a refusal to back down, to pull off a stunning 64-47 victory.
"We've been building and working hard for this for sometime," said coach Jim Haasser in the WIAA teleconference before state last Sunday. "We thought we'd knock off Madison Memorial last year (in the sectional), but we were able to do it this year."
"People who see us, enjoy watching us get after it. we're very fortunate to have a group like this. They work hard and really challenge each other."
Germantown and Mukwonago (23-4) will meet for the D1 state championship Saturday at 8:15 p.m. back at the Kohl Center.
The Indians, who tied for the Classic 8 Conference title with Arrowhead, have some interesting distinctions going into the game. They are a team full of multi-sport athletes, especially football players, who don't mind fast, physical play.
"We are dominated with football players, but these were also guys who grew up loving hoops," said Haasser.
So these battled-tested athletes were not intimidated when King put on its withering intense pressure Friday night. The Indians commited their fair share of turnovers (17), but more often than not were able to break the press and get some easy buckets out of it (20 of 38 shooting with 15 assists).
They were also physical on the glass (a 37-22 advantage over King) and had a huge advantage at the foul line (22 of 35 attempts as opposed to just 10 of 14 for the Generals).
Four players played key roles, including 6-4 senior forward Nick Blohm (13 points and nine rebounds), another 6-4 senior forward Nate Tanguay (16 and 7), 6-1 junior guard Aaron Nixon (nine points and seven of 13 free throws) and 6-1 junior guard Dominic Cizauskas (14 and 12 and six of eight shooting from the field).
All five Mukwonago starters (including 5-10 senior guard A.J. Bricco) played 25 minutes or more and only two subs went seven or more minutes.
Like Germantown, the Indians have a lot of juniors on their roster (10 all told).
Other interesting notes include how the comparative schedules stack up. Both teams beat Milwaukee Riverside and Waukesha South (twice for Mukwnago).
Where they deviate is in their battles with Arrowhead. Germantown defeated Arrowhead twice this year, once in a crashing rout back in December and then in a more competitive game in the recent WIAA sectional semifinal.
The Indians, however, lost twice to Arrowhead, once by 16 and the second time by five. Those were the only Classic 8 Conference defeats for Mukwonago.
How does this game break down?
As with everyone else on the Germantown schedule, the Indians will have to cope with the twin pressures of the 7-0 Fischer, who had a monster game of 32 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots against North, and also with the Warhawks' difficult-to-cope with guard play.
On one hand is 6-3 three-point bomber Jake Showalter, who had a record seven threes in the win over North and the other is 6-1 lightning-quick point guard Lamonte Bearden (13 points, nine assists and three steals).
It's a combination no one has been able to successfully solve so far this winter.
Look for Germantown's junior forwards Evan Wesenberg and Jon Averkamp to play an even more critical role in keeping the Indians from crashing the boards at will.
And another intangible advantage is the Warhawks' experience gained in the title run last season. Fischer, Showalter, Averkamp and Wesenberg all earned their stripes during the bruising run to the top in 2011-12.
Bearden, a first-timer in the final, is looking to glean as much knowledge as possible from that quartet over the next 24 hours as to how to handle the pressure of playing in a state final before an extremely large crowd.
"Yes sir, I'll be talking to them, especially Luke," said Bearden. "I'm going to learn all that I can."
In hopes of bringing a second gold trophy back to Germantown.
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