Facing the Germantown tempo is one thing. Facing it when the Warhawks are hitting their 3-point shots is perhaps an insurmountable challenge.
Though Kettle Moraine hovered within striking distance all night, it never led Friday in the WIAA Division 1 girls basketball regional final, and Germantown held off all KM challenges before emerging with a 72-63 win at Germantown.
With the win the Warhawks (19-5) claimed their first WIAA regional title since the 1993 Jackie Aiken- and Erika Freiburger-led team.
Germantown (19-5) will now play Classic 8 Conference champion Arrowhead (22-2) in a WIAA sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at Waukesha South. The Warhawks lost to Arrowhead, 55-48, Dec. 21.
The winner of Thursday's game will head to Sheboygan North on Saturday to face the winner of two of the state's top three teams, Sheboygan North (24-0) and Kimberly (24-0), in a WIAA sectional final at 7 p.m.
Germantown got there with the win over Kettle Moraine. The Warhawks buried eight 3-pointers in the first half, and both of its first baskets in the second half also came from distance. Perhaps more impressively, eight players accounted for at least one of those makes.
"We rotate 11 kids through, and none of them are afraid to put it up in any situation," Germantown coach Matt Stuve said. "That's a product of how we play, and I think when you play like we do, kids just naturally develop that confidence, where if they're open, they're shooting. That's what we preach. Val (Meissner) struggled a little bit at times tonight, but she's not thinking about that. She's just being in the moment, recognizing space and putting it up."
He was speaking specifically about Meissner's triple in the fourth quarter, the 11th and final 3-pointer of the night. That basket at the 3 minute, 58 second mark initiated a run of eight straight points after the Lasers had pulled to within 56-52.
Taylor Higginbotham led Germantown with 13 points in the first quarter alone and 20 overall.
"We had to keep reminding each other that, even if they start coming back a little bit, we just have to keep coming at them," Higginbotham said. "We knew if we kept pushing and kept our tempo, we were going to win this game."
The team's trademarked line-change substitutions and constant aggression on both ends of the floor represented a tough matchup for a Kettle Moraine team that relied heavily on its senior starters. KM coach Mike Hamilton admitted he's never faced the style before.
"It's just tough to get ready for that pace in less than 48 hours, really," Hamilton said. "We worked on it a little bit last week, worked on some things where we handled their pressure OK. They are relentless. Nothing comes easy. We don't go very deep, but our kids hung in there. Emma (Melotik) hit some 3s that quite honestly I haven't even seen her shoot in practice. She kept us in the game, and that's what you hope seniors do."
Melotik finished with 14 points, including a trio of fourth-quarter 3-pointers to keep her team in the conversation. Linley Achtenhagen closed her senior season with a game-high 27 points, and Chloe Tompkins added 13.
"They've got a great starting five," Stuve said. "All of them can shoot the ball. Unfortunately, we put them on the line a lot in the first half, and that kept them in it, and on the converse, we couldn't hit a free throw to save our lives. We made it a little interesting, but hopefully our depth was able to play a little bit of a factor. They come from a tough conference and did very well in that conference, so we knew coming in it was a good matchup. That's what a regional final should be."
Germantown finished just nine of 23 from the charity stripe.
"Someday it's going to cost us, but fortunately it wasn't today," Stuve said. "Our kids love to compete, they don't mind the big stage, they don't mind the pressure situations. We were able to make enough plays to stay on top."
For Kettle Moraine, it was the end of an 18-6 season in which Hamilton inherited the reins of the program in September, and he subsequently asked the experienced roster to try entirely new concepts.
"I had weekly meetings with the seniors where we just talked, and it was probably 15 minutes of basketball talk and the rest was them getting to know me and me getting to know them. I owe a lot to them. They bought in so quickly."
Meanwhile, like Stuve said, the Warhawks are anxious to make amends against Arrowhead and see how far they can get.
"That's one of ours where we didn't shoot very well," Higginbotham said of the Arrowhead game. "We just have to keep shooting, and if something isn't falling then we have to drive and hit our free throws."
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