About four years ago, I wrote a column or two, not without a bit of chutzpah, that the great three-time WIAA Division 1 state-champion Germantown boys basketball teams of 2012-14, they of a state record 69 game winning streak, could challenge on equal footing the legendary Milwaukee Lincoln teams of the 1960s.
The Comets' former coach Jim Smallins, still active with the Whitefish Bay program, agreed that it would be a great game.
Let's take that a step further. Stevens Point stopped the Warhawks' bid for a four-peat in the 2015 state finals and ever since, the Panthers have been the elite in Wisconsin state prep basketball (though this year's D2 state champion, La Crosse Central, beat the Panthers at full strength last month and would no doubt take strong exception to that assertion).
Point recently completed its own D1 three-peat with an impressive rout of Arrowhead on March 18, which leads to this question:
Which three-peat champ was better?
It is an intriguing question, because since Wisconsin went to the class system in 1972, only one other D1 team, the mighty Tom Diener-led Vincent squads of 1996-98, have won three in a row. In fact, the Vikings won five out of six between 1996-2001.
Instead of trying to go with aggregate greatness of the Germantown and Point programs during their reigns, which would be challenging, I think comparing the best of the separate three-year runs would be a wiser route to travel.
In that case, it's the 28-0 Germantown powerhouse of 2013 led by state player of the year and recent Marquette University 1,000-point scorer Luke Fischer and mercurial, unstoppable guard Lamonte Bearden versus the 2016 Point team (28-0). That squad is led by co-Mr. Basketball winners Sam Hauser (a budding freshman at Marquette) and Trev Anderson (now at UW-Green Bay).
When I put that thought up on Twitter the other night, Channel 12 Sports Director Dan Needles jumped on it and thought that would be great if they could all get together after they graduated from college and play a fun pick-up game.
My insightful and resourceful editor, JR Radcliffe, master of the excellent prep hoops column Roundball Rankings, loves the idea of this dream match-up too.
He has an opinion and it is different from mine. It happens with us sometimes.
Here's his case for Point:
"I don't believe anyone can handle the guard play that Stevens Point brings to the table," he said. "In fact, I think the 2012 team with Zak Showalter and Josh Mongan would have presented a bigger defensive puzzle for Point to solve. Having two dynamic options, both of whom won Mr. Basketball, is a great start, and the Panthers were just a well-oiled machine that returned all the key pieces from a state title the year before. Germantown was great; Stevens Point was just a notch greater."
He has a point, so to speak. In 2016, Anderson averaged 24 points a game, Hauser 18 and the younger Hauser, Joey (star of this year's championship), close to 18.
The closest game the Panthers had that year was a 61-52 victory against Sauk Prairie in December and their six-game state tournament run was almost majestic. The state final, an 89-64 romp over Muskego, was the closest of the six games.
Those Panthers scored over 100 points three times and were just relentless on the attack, with seven players notching over 20 three-pointers for the season.
Very nice, but I think the Germantown team I covered can do that a little better
Here's my case for Germantown of 2012-2013. The Warhawks rebuilt a bit after their breakthrough title season of 2012. Four starters were gone, including current Wisconsin senior jack-of-all-trades Zak Showalter and point guard Josh Mongan.
But the Warhawks had length in abundance. The 6-11 Fischer was just coming into his own and he had great help in a pair of seasoned forwards in 6-7 Evan Wesenberg and 6-6 Jon Averkamp. Furthermore, junior guard Jake Showalter, Zak's little brother, was a deadly 3-point shooter, hitting 53 triples in 2013.
The game-changer came when the talented Bearden and his half-brother Brian transferred in from Homestead. With that, coach Steve Showalter had his trigger for his intense press and run "Show-ball" style.
The team had a a 2-point scare early from a good Brookfield Central team and then was never seriously challenged again. A solid Nicolet team got to within 7 in early January, and then the Warhawks crushed them by 54 in February.
They blasted all comers. D3 state qualifier East Troy was buried, 80-36, in December. D4 state champ Dominican, led by NCAA D1 talents Duane Wilson and Diamond Stone, was suffocated, 88-56, on its home court in January and in early February. D2 state runner-up Wisconsin Lutheran was simply overrun, 84-51, also on the Vikings' home court.
Lutheran coach Ryan Walz summed up the Warhawks this way, and I'm paraphrasing: "If you turn the ball over, they will shred you. If you turn the ball over 22 times, like we did, you will not be within 30."
"Don't ever, ever think you can run with them," admonished then-Whitefish Bay coach Kevin Lazovik, whose Blue Dukes won a state D2 title in 2011, and whose otherwise solid team gave up 107 points to Germantown in an early 2012-2013 season game.
There is my reason why Germantown would win over Point.
This Germantown team put in less than half the 3-pointers (129) that 2016 Point did, but they were quicker and therefore, I believe, better defensively. Teams tried to slow them down in the tournament series, but the Warhawks were fine with that, holding Homestead to 44, Arrowhead to 47 and completely stuffing overmatched Mukwonago, 57-28, in an ugly and physical final.
At any rate, the 2013 Germantown/2016 Point affair would be a howling good time, as neither team would back down from serious attack mode. A game with both teams in the 100s would not be a out of the question. But I believe the vastly underrated Averkamp would take one of the Hausers out of their game, while the athletic Wesenberg would be a match for the other.
The Panther guard line, while good, would simply not be quick enough for the Beardens, and if they got to the lane, there would be Fischer, who had more 70 blocks on the season and many other changed shots.
JR and I could argue all night on this point and we will probably continue to do so all the way through next season when the junior-heavy Panthers will be heavily favored to become the first D1 four-time state champ.
If that happens, then maybe I'll take his opinion a little more seriously (ha ha).