Germantown - The last squad to stop the Germantown boys basketball team from winning at least a share of the North Shore Conference title was the Whitefish Bay Blue Dukes in 2009.
The only squad with a real shot at stopping Germantown from winning a fourth consecutive championship this year is again the Blue Dukes.
After the Warhawks handed the Blue Dukes a third conference loss on Friday night in Whitefish Bay, the 73-60 victory put Germantown in the driver's seat once again. At 9-0 in conference play, 14-0 overall, the Warhawks are now three games with just five games to play.
There will still be challenges, however, as the Warhawks are just two games into a run that will have them play eight of their final 10 games on the road. That will include a North Shore tilt at Grafton on Jan. 25 and then a high-profile non-league decision at defending state Division 4 champion Whitefish Bay Dominican at 5 p.m. Jan. 26.
Friday night's win was the 42nd in a row for Germantown overall and 40th in a row in conference play. Widely regarded as the best Division 1 team in the state, the top-ranked Warhawks haven't faced defeat since March 15, 2011.
Senior forward and Indiana recruit Luke Fischer extended his streak of double-digit scoring performances that includes the entire calendar year of 2012. Fischer had 10 points by the midway point and scored 27 on the night.
The two teams exchanged early 3-point baskets and big defensive stops. The first quarter had over a dozen lead changes or ties, and it took Fischer more than five minutes to score his first bucket against the staunch Whitefish Bay defense. Making up for the slow start from Fisher was junior forward Evan Wesenberg, scoring seven first-quarter points.
'They started off in a zone and we've had some difficulty with getting the ball into Luke against the zone,' Wesenberg said. 'Obviously they are always going to be cautious of where Luke is, so I just tried to slip to the basket.
'I feel I get a lot more open shots when we are both down in the post.'
A fast break, a dunk
Wesenberg didn't slow down in the second period either and his fast break steal finished off with two-handed dunk was the highlight of an assertive Warhawks mid-quarter run. That run along with Fischer finding a few more goals put Germantown multiple possessions up in the closing moments of the first half. Wesenberg had 15 of his 17 points in the first half to help the Warhawks lead, 33-23, at halftime.
Germantown had to battle first-half foul trouble with LaMonte Bearden and Jake Showalter.
The Blue Dukes fell to 6-3 in the conference and 11-5 overall but have managed a solid regular season and will be a team to watch in the Division 2 state tournament. Friday's effort went much better for the Blue Dukes than the previous match with Germantown, a 107-65 pasting in November.
'I get the feeling that not many people are going to beat Bay from here on out,' said Warhawks coach Steve Showalter. 'If they play like they did the way they did against us, they can hang in with anybody.'
Bay closes gap
The Blue Dukes scored the first four points of the second half, cutting the lead back to single digits on an 8-3 run featuring some wizardry from senior guard Kelin Johnson. Johnson made a nifty cross-over dribble to free himself and score an eight-foot jumper. Eventually Fischer would match Johnson virtually shot for shot in the third quarter and keep the Warhawks with a comfortable eight-point advantage.
'I just wanted to become more aggressive on the court and try to get inside more,' Johnson said. 'Try to bang with these big guys in the paint.
'When you have to defend a team like this you have to sacrifice some of your energy from the offensive end, so we just try to balance it out and stay with it.'
Back and forth
Fischer and Johnson continued to battle in the fourth quarter with both players making big baskets back and forth. Unfortunately for the Blue Dukes it wasn't quite enough and the Warhawks machine wore down Whitefish Bay to pull away for the victory. The relatively tight game was something that Wesenberg recognized as a positive for Germantown.
'It will help in the long run when we are playing other tough teams and in the playoffs because it allowed some of our players to step up at the end,' Wesenberg said. 'We try not to focus on the future games, we focus on who we are playing now and treat it like the most important game of our lives.'
Germantown will be at Grafton (5-9) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Warhawks buried the Blackhawks, 76-42, back in December.
The Warhawks at 5 p.m. Saturday will then visit Dominican, which they beat 74-60 last year en route to their first-ever WIAA state D1 title. Knights senior Duane Wilson is a Marquette recruit and is widely regarded as the state's best guard. The defending state D4 champion Knights are 10-3 overall and ranked first in state D4 polls. Two of their three losses are to fourth-ranked in D1 Milwaukee Vincent and to third-ranked in D3 polls Little Chute. Wilson had 23 points in the loss to Germantown last season. Dominican's 6-foot-9 sophomore post Diamond Stone is one of the most highly regarded players in the country in his class.