No one will put an asterisk behind the Germantown girls basketball team's critical 64-52 win over Cedarburg on Jan. 8 simply because Bulldog star Allie Barber was not available because of an ankle issue.
But Warhawk coach Matt Stuve knows his squad's ability to get a critical win and stay in the hunt for a third consecutive North Shore Conference title was made much easier by the absence of the 6-5 Barber.
'We had planned on defending her,' Stuve said, 'but then we saw that she was scratched from the lineup at the last minute.'
A 31-11 run by the Warhawks at the start of the second half broke open a one-point game at the half.
The win improved Germantown to 5-1 in North Shore play and 9-3 overall, while Cedarburg fell to 4-1 and 10-3 respectively. Grafton, which has given Germantown its only league loss of the season, remains in first at 6-0 and 12-0, respectively. Cedarburg will host Grafton on Friday, Jan. 15.
Meanwhile, the Warhawks will look to maintain momentum as they host Port Washington (3-3, 4-8) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, in another NSC tilt and then will take on state power Arrowhead (6-4) at 4:45 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee. Arrowhead's record is deceptive as the Classic 8 titans have played a very challeging schedule.
'They play a schedule similar to ours,' Stuve said. 'You've got to play the tough teams to prepare for the big games down the stretch.'
The Warhawks had done that over the holiday break, going 2-1 and taking third in the powerful Rathke Memorial Tournament in Franklin. That included a win over defending state D1 champ DSHA.
Stuve said he didn't want his team to lose momentum after that good effort, but despite the absence of Barber, the Warhawks got off to a shaky start against the Bulldogs, taking just a 29-28 lead at the break as Germantown star guard Kenzie Schmitz struggled in the session, missing all five of her shots from the field and scoring only one point.
Guard Taylor Weitermann came off the bench in the first half to give Germantown a spark with a couple of big 3-pointers.
Germantown was then able to pick up the pace in the second half.
'We did what we wanted to do in the first place,' he said. 'Force some turnovers and get out on the break. We were definitely able to get a jump on Cedarburg coming out of halftime.'
The margin reached 60-39 at one point before reserves took over, and the score became more respectable.
Schmitz picked up her pace in the second half, too, scoring 19 of her 20 total points, to go with five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
She got help from Olivia Verdin who chipped in with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists, while Weitermann and Sarah Richmond (four assists) had eight points apiece. Chloe Bingenheimer (nine) and Calli Lemke (eight) led a dominant 47-27 rebounding edge for Germantown. Lemke also had three steals and two assists, and Piper Brown had three blocks.
'We felt confident that we could get this done,' said Stuve. 'Kenzie came back in the second half and did what she normally does, transition 3s, steals and lay-ups, and Olivia (Verdin) did her usual inside/outside thing, and both Calli (Lemke) and Chloe (Bingenheimer) defended and rebounded well.'
Keeping the conference title clearly within range was the major goal this night, Stuve added.
'We're telling the kids that if we win 13 (NSC) games, we can still guarantee a conference title,' he said. 'We lose just one, we still control our own destiny. We lose two, we're going to need to some help.
'We're where we need to be.'