Germantown was in Neenah's way and the Warhawks had won the last two state titles. It was no small hurdle for Neenah to clear but Neenah was more than ready to accept the challenge.
Nonetheless, the Rockets fell short in their bid to win their first state title since 1978 as Germantown outlasted Neenah, 48-42, at the Kohl Center.
"It was a tough battle," Neenah coach Scott Bork said. "Germantown's a great team. They're very experienced, they're very experienced here. A couple shots here or there maybe it goes a little bit differently.
"Our kids battled. I couldn't be more proud of the effort our kids gave."
Neenah (26-2) displayed early it wouldn't shy away from Germantown (26-2) as the Rockets led after the first quarter, 9-8. Not only was winning a state title incentive, so was the talk during the week.
"We heard all week the first game (Friday) night was for the championship," Bork said in regards to the Germantown-Milwaukee King semifinal game. "We just didn't believe it. We have kids who will show up, battle and fight to the end."
That was never more true than Saturday. Neenah fell behind, 26-19, at half but rallied to tie the game at 32-all late in the third quarter. However, the Rockets then went more than eight minutes without scoring and fell behind, 40-32, with 3:58 to play.
Neenah made one, last push and had the ball with 15.9 seconds to play and trailing, 46-42. The Rockets called a play for Trevor Entwisle to shoot a 3-pointer and he drained the shot, but he was called for traveling on the play, which all but ended Neenah's chance.
While Neenah fans questioned the travel, Bork talked about falling behind Germantown by eight points because of a scoring drought.
"It's a very physical battle the entire night and when you have to play from behind it takes a lot out of your legs," Bork said. "They take your legs out of you a little bit when you have to play that hard. It then makes it harder to finish."
Besides falling behind another key factor was Neenah point guard Adam Pohlman being in foul trouble. He had three in the first half and it affected Neenah even though he played 27 minutes.
Pohlman opened the game defending Lamonte Bearden, who's cat-quick, and he had to be pulled off him in hopes of Pohlman not fouling out. Furthermore, Pohlman is Neenah's best ballhandler and creater.
"It's huge," Bork said of the foul trouble. "It takes him out of the game, I'll leave it at that."
Neenah players were emotional after the game and shed a few tears. You can't blame the Rockets, though, as the goal was to bring home a gold ball, not silver.
Notwithstanding, still a great season.
"I feel kind of happy, but at the same time we were right there," junior Matt Heldt said. "We could've won this. There's a lot of disappointment. We are second in the state and you can't complain much about that."
"I think it was a great season," Bork said. "Our kids came every night of practice and every game and gave us everything they had. Obviously 26-2, you tell us we can have 26-2 next year, that's great. Hopefully the last one isn't a loss.
"If you say you can end your season on the Kohl Center floor, there's not a coach that wouldn't take that."
Notes: Neenah's 5-10 guard Taulvish McCray grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. ... Entwisle scored a game-high 14 points, while Heldt added 11 and nine rebounds. ... Germantown was 0 for 7 from 3-point range. ... The tournament's attendance was 80,210, including 12,800 for title games in Division 1 and 2 (evening session) and 13,256 for title games in Divisions 3-5 (afternoon sesssion).
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