Between the heart-stopping North Shore Conference win the Germantown boys basketball team had over Whitefish Bay on Dec. 16, and the excitement-filled decision over nonconference border rival Menomonee Falls on Dec. 20, there was supposed to have been another game.
But the blizzard of Dec. 19 got in the way of the Germantown (6-0) and Nicolet (3-3) tilt, and don’t think Warhawks coach Steve Showalter was not grateful for the day off and the extra time to prepare for the Paul Hepp-led Knights, who after a rough start have won three of their last four.
He explained it while he was lifting his tired head up from the training room table he was seated upon after the Warhawks’ difficult two-point win over Falls.
"I will never, ever look past a Paul Hepp-coached team," he said quietly.
And that’s just the way its going to be this winter in the North Shore both on the boys and the girls side. No one is immune to the pressure of holding onto the top spot.
Two-time boys champ Germantown (3-0, 6-0) is currently tied with Port Washington (3-0, 4-0) for the North Shore lead. The Warhawks, which have won their last three games by a total of five points, will host Josh Gasser and the Pirates on Tuesday, Jan. 6.
"It takes a lot of effort to stay on top," Showalter said. "As I’ve told the guys often enough in the locker, I’ve never liked being the guy on top, the guy with the target on his back. We’re learning what it takes to stay there and we’re pulling out tough games, but I’d also like to see a better game from them.
"And I will push them toward that until the last game of the season."
The veteran Warhawks coach has already gone on record saying three or four losses could win the league this season. Hepp and Whitefish Bay (7-1) coach Dave Shaw share Showalter’s sentiments.
"I see the entire season going this way," Hepp said. "There is such a fine line between winning and losing (in the North Shore) this year."
"You’re going to have to be well-prepared and ready to compete every night," Shaw said. "I’m not sure who’ll win or lose the league this season, but I’m pretty sure almost anybody can."
The Blue Dukes suffered their only loss to Germantown in a nail-biter Dec. 16.
Meanwhile, on the girls side, there are all kinds of surprises awaiting people, none more so than early season leader Nicolet (3-0, 4-4), the only team in the league with an unbeaten record.
The young Knights (five sophomores, three freshmen on the roster) had a brutal early nonconference schedule losing to state champion Milwaukee Vincent, state semifinalist Brookfield Central and area powers Muskego and DSHA, but behind solid guard play and imposing 6-foot-4-inch post Alex Cohen, they have fought their way to the top of the North Shore.
"All the games have been big for us," Knights coach Corey Wolf said, "We competed in all of them and they showed us what we needed to work on. It couldn’t get any tougher for us. The girls could have caved or they could have chosen to learn. I’m pleased to say that they’ve chosen to work hard and get better."
The Knights have another pivotal game at defending champion Grafton (6-1) on Jan. 6.
Homestead coach Bill Scasny, whose team made a miraculous rally to beat Grafton last month, got a taste of Nicolet tenacity when the Knights routed the Highlanders (4-1) for their only loss of the year Dec. 12.
"Nicolet is playing the best ball right now of all of us," he said, "but it (the league) is going to be well-balanced."
"I knew it’d be interesting right off the bat."