Germantown boys basketball coach Steve Showalter said his top-ranked in the state Warhawks' season-opening 73-58 victory over seventh-ranked Brookfield Central Tuesday night will likely amount to "six hours of jubilation after six months of worry."
And he has a point.
The Warhawks have been on everyone's radar since the end of their record-setting 24-2 campaign of a year ago. They were installed as number one in the state in various polls, and have the talent to back that lofty ranking up.
But they hadn't played anyone until tonight.
However, after this wire-to-wire win was done, their opponents, while not quite ready to hand them the state championship trophy yet, were impressed by what they saw.
"That's a real good team out there," said Lancer coach Mark Adams. "They've got to be on a mission for one thing and one thing only (a state title). They've got everything covered and they've got depth too. I've got to believe that if I could sneak into one of their practices that they'd be as intense as this game."
And this assessment came after a Germantown effort that all parties noted was lacking in several areas.
It included all-state guard Zak Showalter not scoring until the third quarter, center Luke Fischer picking up his third foul just 23 seconds into the second half and a defense that was a bit spotty in a hectic second period, when the Lancers drained six three-pointers, cutting what had been a 15-point first quarter advantage down to five at one point
No, Warhawk point guard Josh Mongan was not impressed with his squad's effort.
"I would grade that as a 'not very good'," he said. "We can do so much better than that. Turnovers, foul trouble, giving up 35 points in the first half. That is so not like us. I know coach (Showalter) found a lot of things to yell at us about."
"Yeah, we can do better than this."
And yet, the coach, whose team blew out to a 23-8 lead in the first quarter on the strength of 12 points from the 6-10 Fischer, before settling for a 43-35 halftime advantage, was surprisingly uncritical about things.
That was because he knew the caliber of opponent that he was facing as the Lancers and the Warhawks have opened their season together for many years now.
"Central is always the team I measure mine against," Showalter said. "Back in our leaner days, when they would beat us by 20 I knew where we stood."
"And as far as this one is concerned, it's always good to get that first win in. There are things we can work on to be sure, but this was a game to get them (the players) and myself confidence. Because if they (the Lancers) are really a top five team like I think they are, then I feel we can be competitive with just about anyone out there."
That's what scared Adams, because his team did play well for long stretches. Behind Jack Sandstrom's four three-pointers in the second period, Central knocked that 15-point deficit down to five towards the end of the session and at one point had a good-looking shot rim out that would have taken the lead down to one possession.
"I remember thinking 'Jeez, why didn't that go in?' but it didn't happen,'" Adams said, "and then right after that, they get another three."
And shortly after that, right at the start of the third quarter, the Warhawks put their foot down, forcing eight Lancer turnovers in the period with a fierce halfcourt defensive effort. They scored the first nine points of the period to stretch the advantage to 52-35 and the lead never dropped below 11 after that.
"That was our emphasis going into the third quarter," said Mongan. "We wanted to come out of the gate hard, play good defense and put it away early."
The lead reached 22 in the fourth quarter.
Adams knew what happened to his team.
"It was not a poor effort on our part," he said, "but in a game like this when you get your mental part broken down, the fight in you has to come through if you're to stay in the game. I'm afraid they took the fight out of us in the third quarter."
Fischer and Mongan had 14 apiece while Zak Kumbier had 12, Showalter 10 and Dan Studer eight. Seth Mortag had 19 for Central while Sandstrom finished with 12 and Riley LaChance contributed eight.
Adams was pleased with the lift that Sandstrom gave the Lancers off the bench whilre he noted that sophomore post Elijah Goodman acquitted himself well in his first varsity game.
Meanwhile, Mongan, while noting his team's faults, knows that more serious tests like this await the Warhawks.
"We want to be the best," he said, "and in order to do that, we have to beat the best."
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