Members of the Germantown girls basketball team look at the banners in the upper corner of the gym, shake their heads and say, "Wow, that was a long time ago!" when they contemplate that the last league title for the program came in 1973.
Coach Matt Stuve puts it in simpler terms for the Warhawks, who took early control of the North Shore Conference race with a key 75-64 win over defending champion Cedarburg Friday night.
It was a victory that came hard on the heels of another big win over another NSC power, Whitefish Bay, the previous week.
"Like last year, the (basketball) gods didn't give us much of a chance to warm-up (in the league schedule)," said Stuve. "We opened with these same two teams last year (Bay and Cedarburg) and we lost both of them and we finished two games out. We've got these two wins, now do we have enough stamina to play hard through the rest of a 14-game (NSC) schedule?
"It's something we want to do. I like to remind them that the last conference title (the last of three in a row in the old Scenic Moraine) was won in March 1973 and I wasn't born until September 1973. So it'd be good to have one in our lifetimes (laughs), because we've been waiting way too long."
Junior forward Val Meissner agrees.
"We want to win a conference title," said Meissner, who finished with 14 points this night. "...It feels great to take the lead but we're just focusing on our next game right now."
It took the Warhawks (2-0 in league and 4-0 overall) a little while to find their focus Friday night. The Bulldogs (1-1, 3-1) took leads of 3-0, and 12-7, before Germantown, using its patented "press, attack and shoot" Grinnell school of play, started forcing the tempo on the talented but young (no seniors) Bulldogs.
The Warhawks, forcing turnover after turnover, would go on to score the last 13 points of the third first quarter, including 3-pointers by senior guard Paige Groth (10 points), Meissner and senior guard Erika Berry (team-high 17 points).
It was 20-12 at the end of the first quarter and after Cedarburg closed the gap to 20-17 early in the second session, Germantown went on a 9-0 run highlighted by another Meissner trey. The subsequent advantage, which was 33-25 at the break, would never fall under eight again.
"When we get momentum, we want to keep the momentum," said Groth, who was fully recovered from a sprained ankle suffered in a win over Menomonee Falls last Saturday. "We know we all only have a minute or so at a time in there (before the five-at-a-time substitution pattern takes effect) so we want to give it our all."
In the second half, the advantage was as great as 19 (50-31 late in the third quarter) and never fell below 10 (three times in a foul-and-turnover-filled fourth period).
Germantown could have helped itself in the second half but was only 18 of 36 from the foul line in the final 16 minutes, including 14 of 28 in the fourth.
But a major key to the victory was the team's forceful rebounding effort. Despite not having a regular rotation player over 5-10 in height, the Warhawks dominated the boards, frequently getting three, four or five chances at the basket against a line-up that featured a 6-4 center and two 6-1 forwards.
"It was our goal to rebound well tonight," said Meissner. "We knew they had size, especially 42 (6-4 sophomore center Allie Barber). She's a big person."
Stuve says he tries to institute an attitude of toughness in the Warhawks, especially on the glass.
"We had them for no offensive rebounds in the first half," he said. "To do that against a line-up that features six-foot athletes is amazing. (5-7 senior guard Amy) Flasch had four offensive rebounds herself in the first half alone.
"I want the kids to be tenacious in every aspect of the game. Even Berry (who stands all of 5-2) really mixed it up underneath. It's not about size. It's about desire."
Senior post Bridget Kelley added 16 for Germantown while Cedarburg was led by forward Kylee Marks with 20.
Groth said it was a big win, but there are many more games ahead for the Warhawks before they can start thinking about that coveted league title.
"They won the conference last year," she said, "and we knew whoever won this game would get a big advantage (in the league race) so we really wanted to go out there and play well.
"...but we're going to keep focusing on one game at a time. Keep focusing and not let up. Just play as aggressively as possible."
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