The Germantown boys' basketball team's 69-game winning streak began with Brookfield Central at the beginning of the 2011-12 season and tonight, in a most fitting fashion, it ended with Central in a much-hyped mid-campaign battle royale.
The two-time state champions were out-muscled, out-hustled and were done in by a team that held it's composure down the stretch, as the Lancers outscored the Warhawks, 18-5, over the last 3:22 en route to a streak-busting, 68-58, homecourt victory.
"We looked it up, we were win number one for them and here we are at 69," said a happy Lancer coach Mark Adams. "Someone then told me, 'Hey, it's karma,' I don't know if I believe in that, but I'm really happy for the kids. They've worked hard and earned the right to be in a game like this and I'm very happy with the way they handled it."
The Lancers, now 12-0 on the season, entered the game ranked number two in the state while the Warhawks (now 13-1) entered at number one in state polls, a position they've held since that 2011-2012 season.
They had not tasted defeat since a controversial WIAA Super-Sectional defeat to Appleton East in March 2011. In-between there have been two WIAA state titles, a lot of victories and several well-hyped "Games of the Century."
All of which they had pulled out until tonight.
"They played well," said Warhawk coach Steve Showalter of his long-time rivals the Lancers. "They played us as hard to the end as as anyone has for an entire game. There were a couple of big plays down the stretch that they made and we didn't."
And when asked if it was a little too early to put the streak and the Warhawks' place in history in context, he just quietly said:
"Yes, it is."
Because there was simply too much to digest about this game, played at a packed and steamy Central Fieldhouse with sweat literally pouring out of every pore and every piece of wood.
No one was sweating more or working harder than Central senior forward Elijah Goodman, who was a beast on the boards tonight with 19 points and 20 rebounds, including it seemed every big rebound there was.
None more so than the ones he corralled down the stretch. Take for example, what occurred with about 1:31 remaining and the Lancers nursing a 57-55 lead. Central came down on a fastbreak only to have the Warhawks' 6-7 forward Evan Wesenberg, playing gamely on a recently sprained ankle, reject the shot.
But before Germantown could grab the ball, Goodman swept in, snagged it, put the ball back in and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but that emotional play was the start of a 9-0 Central run that ended when teammate Caleb Mortag thundered home a climatic dunk with 25 seconds left that made it 66-55.
"I just try to get every rebound," said the returning NOW All-Suburban selection Goodman. "I see the ball go up and I run up to it. That's my job. I'm the middleman on the team."
Showalter knows that all too well.
"That's their game," he said. "They get to the rim and then let him (Goodman) rebound the ball. He's the best (in the area) at that and we had our best people on him and we still didn't get it done. He just got all the big rebounds, that's how good he is. He crashed the boards all night."
But those boards would not have been as important if Germantown hadn't made some uncharacteristic mistakes down the stretch.
The Warhawks, who had an eight-point lead early in the second quarter only to fall behind 31-27 at the half (the second straight game that that has happened to them) had clawed their way into a 53-50 lead with 4:11 remaining with the help of a LaMonte Bearden 3-pointer and a Jake Showalter putback.
But after a Central miss, Germantown threw the ball away and the Lancers' all-state guard Riley LaChance (23 points) got out on a break and converted a three-point play to tie the score with 3:22 left.
On the very next possession, the Warhawks tossed it away again and LaChance again made them pay with a hoop to give Central the lead at 55-53 with 3:03 remaining.
The Lancers would never trail again.
"After that, we acted like the game was over even though there was still a lot of time left, " said Coach Showalter. "There was still a lot of time and we didn't handle ourselves well in that stretch."
The Warhawks still did have a chance when Bearden hit two free throws with 2:06 left to make it 56-55, but shortly thereafter, Goodman had his monster putback and at the 1:13 mark Germantown's chances took a major hit when Bearden fouled out.
The Warhawks didn't score again until Dearionte Hudson banked in a 3 with five seconds left. But by then it was way too late, and the Lancer fans were ready to storm the court and celebrate their piece of history.
"This is a pretty good feeling," said Adams. "Just a great feeling in fact. It's something that's been on our minds for a long time now. Been on our players' minds for a long time.
"It brought back memories of last year (when the Warhawks edged the Lancers on a last-second shot) and that was the last thing Riley talked about in our final meeting. That we have to do something about that.
"It wasn't a revenge thing. We just wanted to play the whole 32 minutes."
Something that Coach Showalter wishes his team had done as he had to make an unfamiliar post-game speech to his team. One he hasn't had to do since that fateful night in March 2011.
"We really didn't play very well," he said. "We have to do better. ...It's a loss, not the last game of the season and it didn't end our season. We want to be able learn from this and put it into our next game.
"But this isn't easy. It's been a long time since I've had this talk (a post-game loss). We have to be able to respond to the heartbreak and move on."
Bearden had 24 points to lead Germantown while Jake Showalter had 11 and Wesenberg nine.
Central also got help from Brad Newman with 12 and Mortag with nine.
"We're going to enjoy the moment," said Adams.
And then some.
"The environment was just amazing," said Goodman. "That was the loudest gym I've ever been in, and to go into battle with those guys in my lockerroom and come out with a victory is the greatest feeling in the world."
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