The Germantown girls basketball team has been waiting for a singular moment like this for a long time.
And the Warhawks wanted to the share the happiness.
Their insanely successful 3-0 week had just concluded with an astounding rout of former state No. 1 Arrowhead at the Al McGuire center on Jan. 7, and the Warhawks could have been full of themselves and gone off to celebrate with an impromptu team party or dinner.
But coach Matt Stuve said they wanted to do something else. The suddenly hard-luck Warhawk boys were playing Marquette later that night in the final game of the one-day McGuire Classic that Germantown and Arrowhead co-sponsored, and many of the girls wanted to stick around and support the guys.
The Warhawk guys appreciated the gesture and rewarded the girls' perseverance and loyalty with a 59-55 overtime victory, which broke a rare seven-game losing streak.
"Most of them did stick around," Stuve said. "It was a good thing for them to do that. You want to stick around after a win (at a place like the McGuire Center), but I think the guys were really grateful for that."
They were, said boys coach Steve Martin.
"We had watched the girls (against Arrowhead), and they played very, very well," Martin said. "They left us a nice good luck note (in the locker room) saying we're 'all one big basketball family.'" We're very proud of those kids (the girls), and we're striving to do our very best, too."
Stuve is proud of the girls, too. He has led the Warhawk girls to three consecutive North Shore Conference titles and WIAA regional titles in two of the last three years, but what happened Jan. 7 at the Al against Arrowhead, which has beaten them in WIAA tourney play in three successive postseasons, may be a defining moment.
That win, which came on top of difficult North Shore Conference victories over Whitefish Bay and Cedarburg last week, may be like that moment in 2007, when the Warhawk boys won their first North Shore Conference title in three decades, and then coach Steve Showalter took the final cut of the net and thrust it out towards a delirious, success-starved fan base.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Stuve is trying not to read that much into the Arrowhead win, but he is still amazed at how the past week evolved. The Warhawks didn't score for close to seven minutes at the start of the Bay game on Jan. 4 on a chilly night at the Blue Duke field house before rallying for the win. Then they fell behind, 19-8, to Cedarburg on Jan. 6 at home before turning it on for another victory.
And then came the late afternoon thrill-fest at the McGuire Center against Arrowhead.
"It was amazing," Stuve said. "Every single starter scored before we we subbed out. The kids are just always geared up to play Arrowhead, and it's always fun to play at the Al. We also had a great team to play, and for some reason, fatigue was not an issue for us.
"It was funny. We get out to that big lead, and it's Arrowhead, and we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it never did."
Freshman on fire
Make no doubt, this is still senior all-state guard Kenzie Schmitz's team, but as noted in the Arrowhead story, it was a coming out party for freshman guard Natalie McNeal, who tied Arrowhead in knots with 28 points.
Stuve likened her effort to that of former Germantown Now Player of the Year Taylor Higginbotham, who is tearing things up for Western Illinois University in her sophomore season (she had a career-high 28 points with six rebounds and five assists in a recent win over the University of Denver).
"I remember Taylor had two 20-point games in the playoffs as a freshman," Stuve said. "She's (McNeal) like her (Higginbotham) that way. She's very athletic and plays taller than she is (5-5). She has a very vertical game."
He said one particular step-back 3-pointer during which McNeal tied the defender in knots got the sleepy student section rolling.
"They became very energetic after that," Stuve said, laughing.
Another good moment last week was the rounding into form of senior forward Olivia Verdin, who had missed several weeks with a bad ankle sprain but made several big plays in the wins over Bay and Cedarburg.
But as Stuve and the Warhawks are enjoying these moments, they are also looking forward. Though they have a big leg up toward a fourth consecutive North Shore Conference title, they know there's a lot of work to do, and a potential first WIAA state tournament berth still has a massive roadblock in place, as a sectional rematch with Arrowhead is almost inevitable.
Still, as they demonstrated with the full-throated support of the guys on Jan. 7, they're going to have fun, and they're going to be generous with their time and effort.
It's what they do best.