Germantown coach Steve Showalter hestiated answering the question following his team's shockingly easy 77-60 state semifinal victory over Milwaukee King Friday night at the Kohl Center.
The query went something like this (loosely paraphrased): "How does it feel to be a game away from being compared to the all-time greats (in state prep basketball)?"
"I'd rather not answer questions like that until after tomorrow night (after the state championship game with 26-1 Neenah at 8:15 p.m.)," was the somewhat surprised response.
Because history is often a fuzzy thing, said to be written by the winners of wars and elections. But these same people may be writing much about these Warhawks, as they attempt to become just the seventh team (maybe the eighth if red-hot Whitefish Bay Dominican beats Blair-Taylor in the D4 title game this afternoon) to win three consecutive state titles.
The first championship for the Warhawks was about making history in 2012 and last year's crown was a victory lap, a team so dominant that they had only only two single-digit wins all season and were not seriously challenged throughout the WIAA state tournament series.
This year was expected to be more of the same, as four starters returned from that dominant unit of a year ago, but a lack of certified "go-to" player and Showalter's search for a definitive leader made this group of Warhawks less invincible than they might have seemed after starting the year ranked number one in state polls.
Brookfield Central ended their state record 69-game winning streak in a thrilling sold-out game in the Lancer Fieldhouse and then came late January and the traffic stop in Germantown that found four Warhawk players in a car reeking of marijuana smoke and in possession of drugs.
The story made all the papers, embarrassing Showalter, the team and the program. The four players in the car were in one case arrested while the others were given citations. They were all subsequently suspended from the team for several games because of their actions.
Many trees went to the ax for all the editorials that were written about the situation (including for my own opinions). Not a lot of it positive.
Meetings were held inside the team, much yelling and hard-feelings for a time, said the coach. Another tough loss came to state D2 finalist Wisconsin Lutheran.
But slowly, fences were mended within the team, more victories followed and a seventh North Shore Conference title in eight years followed. The NSC winning streak now stands at 59 games.
The two-time champs cruised to the WIAA sectional title and advanced back to state for a try at a third title, but the fomidable Milwaukee King team, very similar in terms of talent and intensity to the bunch that the Warhawks held off in a thrilling state finals victory in 2012, stood in their way in the semifinals.
But lo and behold, after a hard practice the night before at the Al McGuire Center on the Marquette University campus (with new Marquette student and future center Luke Fischer in attendance), the Warhawks were more than ready, as they trailed the Generals for only a brief time and otherwise completely dominated the game both inside and from the guard position.
The ease of the victory, easily the most anticipated game of the state semifinal round, left everyone stunned, including the victors.
"To do this to King is amazing," said Showalter.
Now he and the Warhawks look to write their own ending to this memoir, this history book. They will face a formidable Neenah team, which dispatched 2013 finalist Mukwonago, 58-41 tonight. 6-10 junior center Matt Heldt (27 points tonight) and senior point guard Adam Pohlman (eight assists) will present fomidable challenges.
But you get the feeling that this Germantown team, if it plays like it did tonight, will have a happy ending to this story.
One that in Showalter's eyes, has been more than 20 years in the making.
"In 1991 I moved to the (Germantown) area and all I heard about was 'King and Vincent', ' King and Vincent'," he said. "My personal goal when I became involved in basketball in the suburbs was to find out if there was any way we could compete (with the powerful Milwaukee schools). I honestly didn't know if we could (for a time).
"Now I think we've shown a way. That if you work hard and compete, you can be mentioned in the same breath (as the all-time greats)."
After Saturday night's final, we'll find out if that answer is 100 percent correct.
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