It was the ultimate form of validation.
Moments after the Germantown girls basketball team had secured its fourth straight North Shore Conference title with a stunning 92-54 rout over second-place Cedarburg on Friday, Feb. 10, respected Bulldog coach Dave Ross called seniors on the Warhawks' team over to congratulate them.
Loosely paraphrased he said: "I don't like getting getting my butt kicked like this, but you guys did a great job. Good luck in the (WIAA) tourney."
The classy maneuver put a formal stamp of respect on the accomplishments of the seven-person Germantown senior class as they earned the right to celebrate four years of being on top of the North Shore.They will look to finish off the North Shore with a perfect 14-0 record when they host Port Washington on Thursday, Feb. 16, in their regular-season closer.
The WIAA sectional seeding meetings are this weekend, and coach Matt Stuve will expect nothing less than the top seed for his 19-2, third-ranked Warhawks who have won seven games in a row.
"This is a tremendously competitive group," he said. "Very talented. They've won conference titles at every level all four years. It's what they've been about. And the young kids we brought in this year (three heavily contributing freshmen) have fed off of it. It's a great story line and the expectation now."
Senior all-state forward Kenzie Schmitz, who led all scorers tonight with 21 points, agreed wholeheartedly.
She became the school's leading scorer this week, surpassing former teammate Taylor Higginbotham, and said it's all about the wins with this group.
"We're always working on getting better," she said, "and it's very exciting to see where we are now. Every day for the last three years, this has been what we've been working toward. It's been the goal all along to get to 14-0 (in conference). We're still working towards that perfect record."
Senior forward Olivia Verdin, who was one of four Warhawks in double figures with 13 points and who lost several games in December due to an ankle injury, was equally impressed with the effort.
"Oh man, this is just awesome," she said. "It's hard to describe. To start as strong as we did, to finish as strong as we did. We didn't expect to be as strong as we have been, but we're so competitive. We've just been doing everything we could (to get better)."
That effort has resulted in a 13-0 conference record, as the Bulldogs (10-3, 15-6) fell into a tie for second with surging Homestead.
The swarming, high-octane Warhawks never trailed against Cedarburg, breaking out to an 8-2 lead and gradually extending the advantage until a 9-0 burst in the middle of the half, capped by a 3-pointer from freshman guard Natalie McNeal, made it 32-16 with 6:43 left in the first session.
The advantage never dropped below double digits after that. It was 47-34 at the half, and a 16-0 outburst took it from 55-42 with 15:05 left to 71-42 with 9:13 to go and ended any conversation.
Germantown finished with 13 3-pointers on the night, including four by Schmitz and three by freshman guard Kate Richmond, who finished with 15 points. Fellow frosh McNeal pumped in 13 points. Quinn Prom led Cedarburg with 14 points.
"At practice yesterday it was just amazing," Stuve said. "In all our drills, everyone was hitting them (3s). The coaches were looking at each other and saying, 'Are we going to save some for the game?' and we did."
Schmitz said the fluid nature of the game, its pace and intensity, reminded her of that big win the Warhawks scored in early January over then No. 1 Arrowhead — the win that really put them on the map.
"We were just doing so many good things overall the entire game," she said. "Everyone contributed."
All told, 12 people scored for the Warhawks, which led to a happy but low-key celebration on the court at Cedarburg.
"It's a very good feeling to get the number '2017' up on that banner (at school)," said senior reserve forward Anna Averkamp, who joins celebrated big brothers Ben and Jon as a multi-time conference hoops champion. "All that hard work has finally paid off."
"We have a lot of depth, and we knew we'd come on strong," said senior guard Taylor Weitermann. "It's bittersweet that it's coming to an end, but we're going out with a big number on the board."
Stuve knows there's an even more elusive and bigger banner the Warhawks would like to earn — a first-time WIAA state tournament berth.
The road toward that goal starts soon.
"The kids are playing with a lot of confidence right now," Stuve said. "As I said before, they're all about winning."