King’s Austin Malone-Mitchell plays defense against a Mukwonago player in the state semifinals, Mar. 8, in Madison.
by Troy Sparks
Madison – There were some mixed results at the boys state basketball tournament held recently at the Kohl Center. Enthusiasm and fan turnout was high in the semifinal rounds of the five divisions and the interest waned after people headed for the exits with 3 minutes left when Germantown had the game in the bag in a blowout win against Mukwonago to win their second Division 1 title.
Last year, many people hung around to see if the David in Milwaukee King and their small lineup could upset Goliath in Germantown in a thrilling finish. The Generals were a made three-point shot away from sending the game into overtime.
King coach Jim Gosz ruled Madison once upon a time when he had great teams and great players with Division 1 college scholarship offers in their back pockets. He keeps getting his teams back to state, but the WIAA didn’t have to hand the gold championship ball to either King or Madison Memorial this year.
Enter Mukwonago, who took out both powerhouses in consecutive weeks. The Indians stunned Memorial in the sectional finals to make it to state since 1996. They used their big bodies and pace of the game to beat King in the state semifinals, Mar. 8. It didn’t surprise any of the players on the Mukwonago team that no one believed that they could pull off back-to-back upsets.
“I guess being the underdog, we don’t look ourselves as an underdog,” Mukwonago’s Nate Tanguay said. “We always think that we’re the better team, and the only team that can beat us is us.”
Try telling that to King, who was looking for a rematch with Germantown. For some reason, they clammed up at a time when they needed to crank up the heat. The slow-down pace by Mukwonago threw off the Generals’ rhythm in the second half. It also didn’t help that the City co-champs couldn’t hit the side of the barn with 22 percent from the field to show for it (6-for-27). They couldn’t bang in the paint against the Indians, who had some football players on the team.
“Mukwonago beat us in every aspect of the game,” Gosz said. “They got the loose balls. They won it (Friday). Sometimes the better team just beats you. We get to the middle (of the lane) and they just have those big kids in there and that’s the way we were winning games. This game humbles you real quick. You just feel for your young men who battled all year. I feel for my guys, especially my seniors.”
So maybe Gosz will go back to the drawing board and get some stocky guys from the King football team to throw around their weight on the hardwood next season. It’s not a knock on King by saying that they can’t play physical, but if you can get a big lumberjack guy in the game to push another big kid on the other team around, regardless of his lack of basketball skills, it would help.
“(Mukwonago) got the ball down low,” Gosz said. “We had three guys on their arms and they were able to bench press the ball right up into the basket. Those are competitive kids. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to see a Mukwonago football game next year.”
The Indians tried to employ the same strategy on Germantown, another up-tempo team, in the state title game, Mar. 9. The Warhawks are used to adapting to another team’s style of play. They prefer to run, but if they had to throw some elbows and push in the lane, so be it. Whatever the opponent’s style was for that day, they could accommodate.
In typical Germantown fashion, they got off to a fast start, but Mukwonago kept up with them a little bit until they faded away in the first half. The Indians’ problem had much to do with their shot selection, and they had nothing left to stay with the Warhawks in the second half.
“They do so many things so well,” Mukwonago coach Jim Haassler said. “You try to take this away and they burn you with that, so you kind of pick your poison. I thought the game was going well for us. Had we sank some shots, what that would have done for the rest of the game might have been intriguing.” The Indians were 9-for-43 ((21 percent) from the field.
It wasn’t the offensive results that Germantown coach Steve Showalter expected from two of his best shooters in juniors Lamonte Bearden and Jake Showalter. Both shot a combined 2-for-16 in the title game. Bearden was perfect from the field (4-for-4) and Showalter made seven threes, tying the Division 1 record for threes made in a state tournament game, in their win against Oshkosh North.
“We wanted Lamonte to have a really good game from the field and he was 1-for-11,” Steve Showalter said. “We wanted Jake to light it up from outside. He was 1-for-5. I don’t know what happened. We’re used to scoring 80 points a game. Our guys were sitting on the bench and not making shots. I can’t even explain what happened.”
If it wasn’t for Mukwonago missing shots and the Germantown defense saving the day at times when they needed stops, it would have been a different ballgame. But it was enough of an effort by the Warhawks to capture their second straight championship.
They have a 56-game winning streak and back-to-back undefeated seasons. King and Oshkosh West won back-to-back titles in recent years, but neither team had back-to-back seasons without a loss. Germantown went out like winners again. Fischer was voted Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin this year. Perhaps it’s too early to talk about a three-peat.