Germantown basketball's incredible streak of dominance in the North Shore Conference is over at 77 games at the hands of the Cedarburg Bulldogs after a 63-62 thriller Jan. 8.
Cedarburg's John Diener is only a sophomore, but he has at least one thing in common with Germantown senior star Juwan McCloud: he doesn't miss many big shots. So it stands to reason that when Diener got the last good look at the basket, it was the difference in the Bulldogs' historic win.
The game between two North Shore powers, both 4-0 in league play coming into the battle, lived up to its billing. One possession was the difference most of the night, right up to the final 50 seconds when the teams were locked in a 56-56 tie.
Diener drilled a three from the top of the key to put Cedarburg up, 59-56. McCloud, who wasn't his typical marksman's self overall, responded with a game-tying 3.
Diener drew a foul on the next possession and converted both shots to go ahead, 61-59, with 23 seconds left, when McCloud repeated his heroics with another deep 3 for a 62-61 advantage. Diener drove to the lane, and two Germantown defenders converged on him. Just as he fired up a shot, he drew the foul with three seconds left. He again converted both shots amidst screaming Germantown fans.
The Warhawks' inbounds pass was intercepted. They fouled again. A full-court shot off a free-throw rebound bounced off the backboard.
And suddenly, someone other than Germantown sat in first place in the North Shore.
'Let's put it this way,' Germantown head coach Mark Adams said, 'there were some big calls at a crucial part in the game. I'll leave it at that.'
Germantown (7-3 overall, 4-1 in conference) has been vulnerable early this season, off to a bit of a slow start by its traditionally exceptional standards, albeit against very strong competition. After a four-point escape at Whitefish Bay and consecutive losses to Arrowhead and Stevens Point the past week, Cedarburg (10-2, 5-0) was a logical pick to beat the streak.
You'd need to go back to Dec. 22, 2009, to find the last time Germantown lost consecutive games and back to Feb. 12, 2010, to find the last time it lost a conference game — at Cedarburg, no less.
But a young, fairly inexperienced Bulldogs team needed everything to pull it off. A single possession separated the teams throughout a tight first half that featured 11 lead changes. The Warhawks seemed to gain a bit of control when McCloud and senior Max Keefe hit three straight threes for a 9-0 run and 32-25 lead in the final minute.
But in a bit of foreshadowing, Diener responded with two impressive fade-away jumpers in the last 30 seconds to make it a respectable 32-29 at halftime. Diener, entering the game averaging 23.2 points per game, tallied a game-high 32 points and seemed to get better under more pressure.
'We had a lot of chances,' Adams said. 'A lot of them came on the offensive end. But we had to have more defensive stops at the end, and we just didn't get them. We had a game plan; it required discipline, and I don't think we showed a lot of discipline tonight.'
Cedarburg's other dynamic sophomore, Matt Barber, added 14 points. McCloud led Germantown with 20, while Keefe scored 14.
For now, the Warhawks are in uncharted territory — looking up at someone else in the conference. Adams said it's up to them what happens next.
'When you're in a game like that, the end of the game is a gut check,' Adams said. 'And now it's a gut check in how you respond. It's the same type of thing. It's up or down. There are only two ways to go from here.'
NO TIME TO PANIC
Warhawks busy this week
UP NEXT:Germantown will have to rebound in a hurry. The Warhawks took on nonconference foe Kettle Moraine (4-4) on Tuesday, Jan. 12, and then will visit Port Washington (0-10) in a 7:30 p.m. North Shore tilt on Friday, Jan. 15. On the next day, Saturday, Jan. 16, they will take on Greater Metro Conference co-leader Marquette (7-2) at 8:30 p.m. in a showcase event down at the Al McGuire Center on the Marquette University campus.