For such a long and storied rivalry, the final Germantown-Homestead boys basketball game in conference play should have had a dramatic tip-in at the buzzer, a climatic blocked shot, a free throw with no time left on the clock.
Some kind of dramatic finish to indicate what this rivalry has meant to so many people over the decades.
Instead, what the quiet crowd in the Homestead Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Jan. 31, got was Germantown going on an 11-0 run late in the first half to build a 13-point halftime lead and then doing enough of the little things at the end to hold on for a 69-62 victory.
The win for the Warhawks gave them a season split with Homestead. There is still a chance that the two teams could meet up again in the WIAA playoffs, but for all intents and purposes, this was the last conference game between the pair before Germantown heads off to the Greater Metro Conference next fall.
A slightly wistful first-year Germantown coach Steve Martin recalled a memory from one of the great founders of the rivalry, the late Warhawk football coaching legend Phil Datka.
"We talked about Phil before the game," said Martin. "I remember a visit here a few years ago and we were fortunate enough to win and I remember seeing Phil and the huge smile that was all over his face. I just wanted these guys to represent our team and community well, because a lot of people (like the late Datka) were counting on us."
The win lifted the Warhawks to 4-5 in the North Shore and 7-9 overall. Another first-year coach, Homestead's Sean Crider, whose team is now 4-5 and 6-10, respectively, is also going to miss this game each year.
"It would have been good to sweep them (the Highlanders won in December), but I'm sure they wanted to get back at us for beating them on their home floor," he said. "It's just unfortunate not to play them twice a year like we've always done anymore. It's a great rivalry and coach Martin is doing a very good job over there."
One thing Martin is doing very well in his first year, is learning how to adapt.
The first five-plus minutes was a frantic back and forth with neither team able to stop the other. Germantown forward Kyle Clow would hit three 3-pointers in a row to keep the Warhawks in the game as their own man defense struggled to contain the Highlanders. Clow would finish with a game-high 30 points.
But then Germantown switched to a 2-3 zone and suddenly the game changed dramatically. The open lanes to the basket for the Highlanders disappeared and the Warhawks went on an 8-0 run to take a 24-16 lead with 10:37 left in the half. They would never trail again.
"It was like I told the kids afterward, Homestead scored something like 14 points in the first four minutes and then 15 the rest of the half," said Martin.
Homestead closed to within 29-27 on a 3-pointer by Jack Quinlevan, but then the Warhawks forced six turnovers out of the Highlanders in the final seven minutes as they closed the half with a 13-2 run and a 42-29 advantage.
A steal and basket by guard Zachary Behrendt punctuated the run.
Clow would lead all scorers with 21 at the break.
"That zone has been helping us a lot lately," said Clow, a Michigan Tech recruit. "We've got a lot of length to work with and it really helps us defend the lane, We can always count on our defense to give us some offense, too."
Homestead's reaction to the zone frustrated Crider. The Highlanders had hit 14 3-pointers over West Allis Hale's zone in a win on Jan. 28, but they were only 10-of-34 from behind the arc against Germantown.
"We saw it (the zone) and we went 'Yes,'" said Crider, "because we had shot lights out against Hale, but not tonight. It's all a matter of whether your shots go in."
Germantown built on the lead in the second half, getting it up to 59-43 on a Bryce Thomas tip-in with 10:32 left.
Homestead tried to claw its way back with a bit of a press and more intensity. Back-to-back baskets by forward Taejuan Johnson, including a steal and a dunk, cut the margin to 63-58 with 5:21 to go, but the Warhawks hit just enough free throws and the Highlanders missed just enough shots to allow Germantown to slip away.
Quinlevan hit two free throws with 1:29 to go to cut the deficit to 65-61, but in the next 30 seconds, Clow hit 3-of-4 free throws to make it 68-61 with 1:01 left, effectively ending the game. Greg Foster Jr. had 17 points for Homestead while Quinlevan had 13.
"We had a comeback going," said Crider, "but sometimes when we're in that situation, we try to get it back all at once instead of being patient and looking for the good shot. Clow was the big difference maker in this game. They cleared out nicely for him and he can really shoot it. We just needed to get up on him more."
Thomas helped out Clow with 17.
"We needed to be able to ride things out," said Martin. "One of the things we keep telling the kids is that you have to have faith and you have to trust one another. We just connected better tonight and when good things happen for us on the defensive side, it usually leads to offense for us, too."
For Clow and the rest of the Warhawks, it was good to close out the rivalry with a win.
"They have always been our biggest rival since forever," he said. "This game is always a big deal. Beating them is always a treat, but beating them on their home floor in the final game, that's one really to remember."