Germantown shows its muscle again
Brady Ellingson wasn't ready for it to end. The Hamilton marksman still had plenty of three-pointers in that deadly right shooting arm.
Andy Cerroni wasn't ready, either. Not after a late-season surge and a memorable ride through the postseason.
But as Ellingson and Cerroni — the Chargers star guard and head coach — exited Whitefish Bay High School late Thursday night, both had one overriding emotion. Pride.
Top-seeded Germantown defeated No. 6 Hamilton, 63-51, in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal. Afterwards, though, the Chargers focused on a season filled with highs instead of the ending.
"I'm so proud of these guys," said Ellingson, who finished with a game-high 27 points. "This was a great team with great coaches. And we definitely left our legacy on the program."
Hamilton carried a five-game winning streak into the sectional semis and finished the year 17-8.
The Chargers went 38-11 over the last two seasons. And Ellingson, a four-year varsity player, finished as the school's all-time scoring leader with 1,763 points.
"I'm just so proud of these kids," Cerroni said. "If you look at the teams we lost to, every one of them was in the sectionals. "I thought the kids really stepped up and filled their roles. And we competed. We really competed."
The Chargers certainly did that against the two-time defending state champion Warhawks, but Germantown's skill, athleticism and depth proved too much.
Warhawks senior guard Lamonte Bearden came off the bench and scored 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Germantown also got 11 points from senior center Evan Wessenberg and nine from sophomore guard Juwan McCloud and shot 54.8 percent from the field (23-of-42).
"They're so athletic and they just keep throwing guys at you," Ellingson said. "There's not a weak link anywhere."
Cerroni knew Hamilton's best chance of springing an upset was by controlling the tempo and limiting possessions. For most of the first half, that strategy worked and the Chargers were within 25-20 with 3 minutes left in the second quarter.
But Bearden had eight points during a 10-0 run that helped the Warhawks stretch their lead to 35-22 by the break. Hamilton had four turnovers during that burst, while all of Bearden's points in that time came on fast-break lay-ups and dunks.
"The goal was 'We've got to make a run. We need to make a run,'" Germantown coach Steve Showalter said. "(Hamilton) kept hanging around in the second quarter, and then we got a run."
The Warhawks had a second half run that turned the lights out on Hamilton.
Ellingson scored seven straight Hamilton points as the Chargers pulled within 39-29 with 5:56 left in the third quarter. But over the next 7 minutes, the Warhawks went on a 16-2 surge to grab a 55-31 lead that ended things.
The Chargers scored on just 1-of-13 possessions in that stretch, while Germantown scored on 9-of-13 trips.
"That's our game," said Bearden, who added five steals. "We try and turn defense to offense."
The Chargers refused to wilt, made four 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter and pulled within 12 late. But the deficit was simply too much.
"The kids never gave up," Cerroni said. "But it's tough. Our game plan coming in was to keep the tempo where it was early … and we felt if the game was in the 50s, it would be our kind of game.
"But they're a nightmare matchup and they're a nightmare defensively. They're so long and athletic and they come at you from all different angles."
The Chargers will look much different a year from now after saying goodbye to seven seniors. In addition to the dynamic Ellingson, Hamilton will lose seniors Drew Patterson, Brett Buehler, Sam Olson, Dan Lunowa, Mitch Geszvain and Jacob Rink.
"I wouldn't want to go out any other way than with this team," Ellingson said. "We've been through so much this year and we definitely battled and had a heck of a run in the playoffs. I'll remember this for the rest of my life."
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