'It's just too sweet': Germantown boys repeat as state champions
Defense, not offense, keys 57-28 title victory
This was not Germantown basketball in terms of style, production or the pure grace that the game can be and which coach Steve Showalter loves.
No, the 57-28 victory over Mukwonago Saturday night at the Kohl Center in Madison was something different: grittier, tougher and filled with more substance.
It was WIAA state championship-caliber basketball.
And it marked the end of a season-long journey for the Warhawks to prove that last season's title was not a fluke. That the flashy, high-scoring team that had rolled so many opponents could find a heart, find a way and get the job done.
Germantown scored a season low for points, but it was enough to make the Warhawks the first repeat champions in Division 1 since Oshkosh West in 2006 and 2007.
With the win, the Warhawks (28-0) extended their two-season-long winning streak to 56 games and capped a year that had opened with a lot of question marks after four starters and a 10-man graduating class had left the court for the last time last March.
"We love to run up and down the court," coach Showalter said. "It's a beautiful game. You run up and down, make nice passes, hit open shots, but we were not allowed to do that. We had to figure out a different way."
Defense keys victory
That way included something that Showalter admits he and the team don't practice much: defense.
"Guys like you know that I'm an offensive guy," Showalter said to a reporter, "but we really are a good defensive team. We have the seven-footer in the middle (Luke Fischer) and our quickness came through in the third and fourth quarters. We stopped them from scoring, which makes it a lot easier on us when the shots aren't dropping."
Another way the Warhawks found was through its bench. Defensive stoppers Jon Averkamp and Evan Wesenberg were in foul trouble early and so Showalter had to adapt. That's where junior guards Dearionte Hudson and Brian Bearden came in.
Hudson and Bearden both saw extended minutes as the Warhawks went small against the physical and bruising Indians (23-5).
"We had to take a chance that they could hold up against that kind of pressure," Showalter said.
Hudson played nine big minutes, scoring seven points with two clutch steals while Bearden was in 20 minutes, hitting four-of-five shots for 10 points with seven rebounds and three steals.
"We really needed that," said Fischer, who led all scorers with 17 hard-fought points. "The big guys are out and our six and seven guys come in and really pick it up and get it done for us."
But as mentioned, it was hard.
Foul trouble hits early
Germantown looked like it was going to run away and hide in the first part of the first quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points to go up 13-2, but by then Fischer and Wesenberg both had picked up two fouls. Fischer sat the last 3:40 of the first quarter as the gap closed to 15-7 at the end of the first.
"We wanted to have Luke on the floor, which didn't happen," Showalter said. "We wanted Lamonte (point guard Bearden) to run the floor and hit shots and he went one for 11 and we wanted Jake (Showalter) to light it up and that didn't happen.
"We had guys on our backs."
That they did. Mukwonago, behind a slowdown game plan and some tenacious defense, got to within six twice in the second quarter and the margin was only 25-18 at the half. Fischer came back in at the start of the second quarter and did not commit another foul the rest of the night.
And, as noted, the different style the Warhawks were willing to play started to pay dividends in the second half. It was still 29-22 at the 4:46 mark of the third quarter, but then the Warhawks held the Indians without a point the rest of the period, as both Brian Bearden and Hudson came up with big baskets and Fischer hit a free-throw line jumper to make it 36-22 going into the fourth.
The Indians made one more minor push, closing it to 10 with 5:23 remaining, but then the Warhawks defense combined with the suddenly revved-up offense for a very Germantown-like 19-0 run to close out the game and secure a second championship.
Mukwonago would hit only three-of-21 shots (14 percent) in the second half.
Reserves close out game
The closing run was highlighted by 5-6 senior reserve Kendall Miller's back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 50 seconds. It was a feat that rated a rousing ovation from the Germantown bench as Miller is the hardworking leader of the Warhawks scout team in practice.
"Coach said I had the green light when I went in," he chuckled afterward.
It was a fitting and stunningly Warhawks-way to close out a second title, to make sure last year wasn't a flash in a pan that there was something more to the program than just a one-time dash to the top.
"The first thing I thought of (on the awards' stand), was that I knew that we could do this again," point guard Lamonte Bearden said. "It's like coach says, 'We're the hardest-working team out there.' "
And hard work, plus talent, along with a flair for the amazing at times, generally lands teams like these Warhawks in the history books.
"It was a tough way to get it done," Wesenberg said. "You had to box out and work hard. It was tough, but we're state champs, so I guess it was all right (smiles)."
Fischer emphatically agreed.
"It's hard to wrap my head around," he said, after receiving his well-deserved Wisconsin Mr. Basketball award after the game, "but repeating is something that very few teams have done and to go undefeated again, that's just amazing."
Along the way, coach Showalter, who wanted this game to be a pretty, dynamic, high-scoring and entertaining affair, discovered something more important; that his team had the chops, the mental discipline and the toughness to get it done when everything was on the line.
"I think perseverance is the word I'd like to use here," he said. "For these guys to come here to practice every day and work hard when everybody is telling them that they're so great and the only guy who's telling them that they're not is me is really something.
"The ability to persevere and adapt is what makes this team special. To come in and work and get it done was difficult, especially when teams were throwing so many different styles at us."
"But we have an 80-2 record over the last three years with Luke and the team. I don't know if I want to lose again (laughs). It's just too sweet."
BY THE NUMBERS
In six WIAA tournament games
Average score: Germantown 71.8 vs. opponents 43.2
Largest margin of victory: 90-22, over Waukesha South in regional semifinal
Smallest margin of victory: (tie) 61-47, over Arrowhead in sectional semifinal and 73-59, over De Pere in sectional final
Combined record of Germantown's last four tourney opponents: 88-18 (.830 winning percentage)
Final number of conference champions beaten this season: 9 (including four in the tournament)
Leading tournament scorer: Fischer 139 points (23.2 ppg)
Team record over the last three years: 80-2 (.976)
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