Homestead boys come up just short against powerful Germantown
Defensive effort not quite enough
In the famous movie, "Rashomon," the same event is viewed and related from several different vantage points. The term has even become a cultural metaphor for how differently people see the same thing.
Take what happened at a key moment in the top-ranked Germantown boys basketball team's fiercely contested, 72-63, home decision over previously unbeaten and eighth-ranked arch-rival Homestead on Friday.
With the score 57-55 in favor of the Warhawks with 4:37 left to play, Germantown guard LaMonté Bearden slid into the lane on a bold drive to the hoop. There was contact, a whistle and the ball went in the basket.
Block or charge?
The officials called it a block, counted the basket and Bearden hit the free throw to make it 59-54. That started an 11-2 Germantown run that finally allowed the hard-pressed Warhawks, who actually trailed 39-35 at the break, to finally pull away from the stubborn Highlanders.
Of course, Germantown coach Steve Showalter was very pleased with the call.
"You never know what's going to be called in a situation like that," Showalter said. "On one play (in the third quarter) he (Bearden) comes down the lane, gets hammered and they call a charge, and the next time he does that they call it a block. I guess it has a way of evening out."
And, naturally, Homestead coach Kevin McKenna disagreed.
"That was a charge that was taken away from us," he said. "It was a very big turning point. It went from a two-point to a five-point game."
Dunk 'stoked' team
As for Bearden, who finished with 19 points including all seven of his free throws, he saw the play as interesting but not actually the defining point of the contest.
"They actually outplayed us for more than a half," he said. "They were really coming at us. It (the drive and foul) was a nice turning point, but I thought Evan's dunk (Evan Wesenberg) was the real turning point. That got our momentum stoked."
Stoked enough so that the Warhawks could run their North Shore Conference record to 7-0, their overall mark to 13-0 and their state-record winning streak to 69 games, while the fast-rising Highlanders lost for the first time this season (10-1 overall) and fell to 5-1 in league play.
Germantown had another fearsome game at unbeaten and second-ranked in state Brookfield Central on tap on Tuesday. Homestead might have been able to render that game anti-climatic if not for Bearden's three-point play or without, as Bearden contends, Wesenberg's dunk.
That's because up until that point in the third, the Warhawks, who trailed by as many as seven late in the first half, were still scuffling.
A 3-pointer by Highlanders reserve forward Jacob Urban pushed the Homestead advantage back up to 47-43 with 3:18 left in the period.
But then the 6-7 Wesenberg (who had a game-high 20 points) powered his way to the basket for that contested dunk to cut the margin to two. Germantown got a stop, and Wesenberg went back into the lane for another hoop to tie the score.
Dwayne Lawhorn and Wesenberg followed with two more unanswered hoops and by period's end Germantown was up 51-49 and would never trail again.
"That was helpful," Showalter said of the dunk. "We always talk about getting our running game going, but if we can't get it going, we have to get it inside. Evan and Jon (Averkamp) getting in foul trouble in the first half didn't help.
"...(but) Evan really picked us up in the second half. He really wanted it and took it to the basket in a big way."
Until that point, however, it was the Highlanders who looked like the smart ones. Germantown built a 28-20 lead early in the second quarter, but then the long and athletic Highlanders' defensive pressure started to pay dividends.
Homestead sold out completely on defending the 3-point line and made Warhawks gunner Jake Showalter's life miserable all night. He finished with only six points for the game and hit no threes all evening.
His teammates didn't help as the Warhawks managed to win this game despite hitting no long-range bombs at all as compared to seven for Homestead.
"We really played defense and forced them off their line," McKenna said. "We defended the three-point line and the lane. I think in the end, their offensive rebounding was what really made the difference."
Homestead guard Seth Cooley hit four of the Highlanders' treys and scored all 14 of his points in the first quarter as the Highlanders trailed only 24-20 by period's end.
The Highlanders' second quarter run was fueled by seven points from forward Jaylen Key, and allowed the visitors to close the half on a 19-7 run, taking a 39-35 advantage into the break.
But the Warhawks' winning streak is not as long as it is without reason.
After Bearden's controversial three-point play, his brother Brian Bearden hit another shot to make it 62-55 with 3:02 left.
Key scored the last of his 13 points on a hoop to cut it down to 62-57 with 2:45 left, but then Wesenberg, who finished the game with a sprained ankle, scored back-to-back baskets.
Brian Bearden provided the finishing touch, picking up a steal at midcourt and hitting brother LaMonté for a wide-open dunk that made it 68-57 with 1:34 left.
Then and only then did coach Showalter start to breathe again.
"You know, the way we play, we don't normally celebrate huge (individual) plays," Showalter said, "because we usually have more of a margin to work with, but we were able to get some baskets out of set plays and they were huge.
"...These (kind of games) are not something I appreciate having to sit through. I feel like a year is taken (off my life) for every game like this, because you have to give them (the Highlanders) credit, they played us as tough as anyone has this year. They played us the way it should be played."
That's by design, said McKenna, who can't wait for the rematch at the Highlander field house on Feb. 20 in the last regular-season game of the campaign.
"There was definite home court advantage tonight," McKenna said, "...but we will bounce back. We're a mentally and physically tough team....We respect, but we don't fear.
"We'll see what happens that second round. That's the beauty of the conference schedule, we'll get another chance at them at home."
SCHEDULE A GRIND
Highlanders host Bay on Friday.
UP NEXT: The schedule gets no easier for the Highlanders. In fact, the stretch is now brutal. They now host red-hot North Shore rival Whitefish Bay (9-3) on Friday, which they beat 37-35 in overtime when the Blue Dukes were short-handed on Dec. 10. They then take on sixth-ranked (in D2 polls) Wisconsin Lutheran (8-2) on Tuesday. They will really find out what they're made up after that stretch.
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