Milwaukee King basketball coach Jim Gosz has won four state titles and is a proud man, but he knows a really good team when he sees one.
And he saw one Friday in the Generals' WIAA Division 1 state semifinal against Germantown.
Showing much of the swagger that made them a dominant force in earning the last two state titles, the Warhawks trailed only once and got strong performances from post Evan Wesenberg and point guard Lamonte Bearden in routing the Generals, 77-60.
The victory was a prelude to Saturday's state title win over Neenah.
"I knew Germantown was a really good team going in," Gosz said, "but I didn't tell my guys that. Did I think they were this good? Yes.
"... They rank right up there (with the best in state history). Those three they bring off the bench are as good as any they have on the court. People want to bash Germantown (for the drug arrests and the suspensions that resulted from them two months ago), but they're the real deal."
Still, even Germantown coach Steve Showalter did not see this coming. This game was billed as a heavyweight championship fight, but it was a knockout for the Warhawks all the way. The only time they trailed was 3-0, and at one point in the fourth quarter, they had a 27-point lead.
"I expected a war, a battle to the end," Showalter said. "... But to do this to King is just an amazing thing to me."
Germantown (25-2) took control for good with a 9-0 run toward the end of the first quarter as it became clear the Generals (24-3) could not stay in front of the lightning-quick Bearden nor stop the 6-7 Wesenberg, who hit all five of his first-half shots and had 10 points.
It was 19-11 heading into the second quarter.
"Our goal was to establish the inside guys, and once Evan got hot we went early and often to him," Showalter said. Wesenberg would finish with 25 points on 11 of 13 shooting.
"I was trying to get buckets any way I could," Wesenberg said. "Jon (Averkamp) got me going with an early high-low, and that was a big boost to my confidence."
He benefited a great deal from Bearden's creativity as King could not keep up with him. He had three of Germantown's 18 team assists (on 30 made buckets) and finished with 17 points, two blocked shots and three steals.
"I just try to play off what the defense is giving me," Bearden said. "If Jake (Showalter) is open I'll go to him, or if Evan (Wesenberg), I'll go to him. I just don't try to rush things."
The Warhawks looked anything but rushed all night, playing the John Wooden axiom "Be quick, but don't hurry," perfectly.
They looked inside to Wesenberg, fought hard on the boards (winning by a 37-23 margin) and ran their trademark fast-breaks whenever the opportunity presented itself.
King had the margin at 29-21 late in the second quarter, but then Bearden hit a layup, drained two free throws and fed Averkamp for an easy bucket to make it 35-21. It was 35-23 at the break.
"We just didn't play very well at times," Gosz said. "Our (defensive) rotations were not where we wanted them to be, but we had our chances early."
Coach Showalter wanted to limit those opportunities.
"King teams don't change a lot from year to year, so we had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do," Showalter said. "Let's say our preparation paid off. I'll tell you one thing though, it's a big difference when you have a full week to prepare for King as opposed to 24 hours (such as when the Warhawks beat the Generals for the state title in 2012)."
The margin never dropped below double digits in the second half and reached 51-32 on a Wesenberg bucket at the 3 minute, 29 second mark of the third. When Jake Showalter, who had struggled mightily in the first half, hit three 3-pointers in the final minute of the third quarter, it was all but over. Germantown led 63-41 going into the fourth.
"I looked up at the end of the third quarter, and I thought it was over," Gosz said. "That's just a credit to them (the Warhawks)."
Wesenberg added six rebounds to his total while Jake Showalter finished with 13 points and four assists. Averkamp led the rebounders with eight, while backup point guard Juwan McCloud had five assists. King was led by Chris Howell with 17 points.
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