Top of the ladder: Germantown girls earn NSC hoops title
41 years of frustration erased
The images are indelible.
Of course, the first ladder they got out was too short so they had to go get a longer one.
Then there were the cheesy pictures of the players with pieces of net gripped happily in their mouths.
And then there was fifth-year coach Matt Stuve making sure that everyone, and he meant everyone, who wanted a piece of the victorious net got one Friday night.
Because, it's not every night that the Germantown girls basketball team makes history, but the Warhawks did this one, as their 85-43 cruise past Homestead guaranteed the Warhawks a share of their first North Shore Conference title ever and their first circuit title of any kind since the last of three in a row in the old Scenic Moraine in 1973.
Forty-one years ago.
"A long time, not in my lifetime at least," Stuve said. "About six months short actually, but this is just a testament to the kids. To the kids we have who love playing the game together."
Those kids also understood the meaning of Friday's events.
"That is a long time," senior center Bridget Kelley said pointing to the girls' basketball conference championship banner with the three lonely numbers on it, "before my Mom was born, I think.
"...This is great. It means that when I come back in the future, I can point to it (the banner) and say that I was a part of that."
Reserve guard Shelby Petta was also a part of it all. She was one of eight seniors honored as part of senior night this evening and Stuve couldn't stop talking about her efforts.
"The others simply wouldn't be as good without her effort in practice," he said. "You've got to have kids like her if you're going to win championships."
Petta could already recognize her face and those of her teammates in that championship banner.
"It feels amazing," she said. "Forty-one years since the last conference title. Now we have a number you can't take down."
"All week long, we were talking '73' and now we're the next number (on the banner)."
That these Warhawks are.
With the victory, the Warhawks are 12-1 in North Shore play and 16-5 overall. Whitefish Bay is in second at 11-2. Germantown can clinch the championship outright with a win at Port Washington in its regular season closer on March 6.
Like any good coach in a situation like this, Stuve remembered those who went before, highlighting the efforts of predecessors as keys to today's success.
"It was a real first step (his first year in 2009-10). We had the big three Eliza (All-Suburban forward Wortman), Melissa (Klemm) and Rachel (Hoft)," he said. "Those were kids who really set the tone. You look at those kids and you can see how far we've come."
"This is kind of a surreal moment," senior guard Erika Berry said. "It was just so long in coming. I'm just so happy."
"That this did happen on senior night makes this all super exciting," senior guard Paige Groth said. "It makes a good feeling even better....This is really indescribable. I've been part of the team for four years and we've all worked for this and achieved it."
And the feeling was destined to be theirs tonight. The game Highlanders, who took the Warhawks to overtime before falling the first time the teams met earlier this season, were short-handed and simply could not match Germantown's depth and determination.
It was 21-9 at the quarter. The Highlanders briefly made it a game, scoring the first seven points of the second quarter to make it 21-16 with 7:06 left in the half.
But in the following moments, the Warhawks went on a 22-2 rampage that included four 3-pointers (the team finished with an impressive 15 treys on the night). It was 43-18 with 2:58 left in the half.
The lead would never drop below 22 again and when the Warhawks hit four more trifectas early in the third quarter it wasn't long before the running clock (a margin of 40 or more points) would be hit.
"We had a good week of preparation," Stuve said, "and you always want to start well like that. Shooting like we did always helps, too."
The night was happy in another aspect as 15 different players scored, including Taylor Higginbotham with 20, Val Meissner with 16 and Miska Cantley with nine.
Kelley said the team had to be patient.
"This was actually a goal since last year (when the Warhawks tied for second behind champion Cedarburg)," Kelley said. "We knew we had to take it step-by-step."
Actually last season was a serious motivation for the Warhawks, Groth said.
"That (coming up short last year) definitely kept us working," she said. "We needed that goal to be achieved."
And it was finally, officially celebrated, when Stuve eventually took his turn on the ladder, making the final cuts and seizing the net firmly in his hand thrusting it out for everyone to see and applaud.
His young daughter would be playing with it around his feet a few minutes later when he thought carefully and fully about its meaning.
"I was hoping we could do something like this year one," he said. "We expect to win every year. But in order for something like this to happen, things have to fall in place. We didn't have a kid miss a conference game all year (due to injury) and then we needed a little help like Cedarburg beating Bay last week.
"It's a long season, thing have to fall in your favor (in order for it work out).
"But this belongs to everyone now. Not everyone gets the publicity, but now each and everyone of them gets to call themselves champions."
WARHAWKS MAKE HISTORY
Earn WIAA second seed
UP NEXT: Following the Port Washington game, Germantown (16-5) now looks forward to WIAA tournament play. They earned the second seed in their half of the WIAA Division 1 Sheboygan North bracket and host area rival Menomonee Falls (8-12) in a WIAA regional semifinal at 7 p.m. March 7. If the Warhawks win, they host the winner of third-seeded Kettle Moraine and sixth-seeded Homestead in a regional final on March 8. Sectional semifinals are March 13 at Waukesha South. Classic 8 Conference champion Arrowhead is the sectional half-bracket's top seed.
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