Saturday evening's matchup between Germantown and visiting Arrowhead went from a relatively close 39-31 game at halftime to an 80-52 win for the two-time defending state champions from Germantown. The home team may not have come into the playoffs as the undisputed favorite to win the Division 1 state title, as they had in previous years, but Germantown headed to the sectional semifinal looking the part.
Germantown employed a stifling pressure defense that caused Arrowhead to turn the ball over on numerous occasions, taking a 23-14 lead after the first quarter and expanding that lead on an Even Wesenberg basket, a Brian Bearden steal and dunk and a Lamonte Bearden interception converted into two free throws, making it 28-14.
Arrowhead persisted, however. After a 3-pointer from Ricky Finco, Arrowhead created a turnover of its own when Matt Calewarts stole the ball and scored. The visiting Warhawks rode that momentum for the remainder of the half and went into halftime trailing by only 8 points.
The second half started poorly for Arrowhead, as Germantown scored the first 8 points of the half and went on to outscore Arrowhead in the third quarter, 26-9. Germantown continued to utilize the high pressure defense, and Arrowhead simply could never quite adapt to it.
"They crashed the boards hard offensively," said Arrowhead coach Craig Haase, "and they make you pay on putbacks. I thought in the third quarter and in the first quarter, they got some offensive putbacks that started the game out for them. They want to get after you and pressure you, and that caused a lot of turnovers on our part. Usually we handle the ball fairly well. Tonight just didn't go our way. It's a good team. There's a reason why they've done as well as they have done. I don't fault our kids one bit; we gave a phenomenal effort."
"There's a lot of football players out here, a lot of rivalries," said Germantown coach Steve Showalter. "We've been playing these kids since my boys were in third and fourth grade. We all know each other, the kids all know each other, and you know it's going to be a physical battle, and that's the way they play, that's the way we play. We made shots and they missed some, so that's the difference. I was worried because usually Arrowhead handles that pressure defense really well, and in the first half, we just fouled them way too many times. If we don't get all those fouls in the first half, I think it's a 20-point lead at halftime. We showed in the second half that when we don't foul, we can make those runs and then put them away, and that's what we did."
Arrowhead was playing without sophomore Bryce Nze, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, who was lost with injury prior to the playoffs.
Wesenberg scored 19 points for Germantown to lead all scorers. Almost all of his points came near the rim.
"He's a really good player," Lamonte Bearden said of his teammate. "He plays around the rim, so that's what he does. He's real athletic, so he played a big part for us tonight and that was pretty good. That's how we got the win.
"Arrowhead's a really good, fast team so we just tried to come out here and match the intensity tonight, and that's what we did. We're feeling real confident. We always feel confident. We always can get better, so work hard in practice and be ready for the next game. It kind of gets us prepared for the fast teams we'll play against."
Haase will be looking forward to next season while reflecting upon this one.
"I thought our seniors had a phenomenal year. Sometimes people lose sight of how hard it is to win 17 games and finish second in a conference that's as good as the Classic 8. Our six seniors did it as well as any senior group we've had. We've got some young kids in the program that love the game. I think we've got to get stronger, and I think that we've got to get better with the ball, and I think if we do, we'll be fine. We've got some kids that are coming that will be good. We've had a pretty good tradition here going lately, and I think we'll be fine."
Germantown (22-2) will play Sussex Hamilton on Thursday at Whitefish Bay High School.
Bearden added, "I'm going to miss these courts, and miss the fans and stuff, but it feels pretty good."
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