The Germantown girls basketball team asserted itself atop the North Shore Conference standings with a 59-45 triumph over Cedarburg on Jan. 6.

The Warhawks had to fend off an aggressive start from the Bulldogs, but Germantown’s numerous scoring threats eventually became overwhelming.

Both teams entered the matchup unbeaten in conference play, but for now, Germantown (11-1, 6-0) remains the top dog. The three-time defending conference champion Warhawks, buoyed by freshmen phenom guard Kate Richmond and senior standout Kenzie Schmitz, were just too much for Cedarburg to handle.

Schmitz, destined for Miami of Ohio in the fall, led all scorers with 22 points, while Richmond added 13. It has to be getting old for Cedarburg — not only were the Bulldogs the last team to win the North Shore before Germantown’s run, but they’ve finished second to them each of the past three seasons.

The hard-charging Bulldogs built a 19-8 lead in the first half with a strategy that surprised Germantown: The Bulldogs opted for a face-guard defense on freshman Natalie McNeal rather than Schmitz.

McNeal is averaging over 12 points per game, compared to Schmitz’s nearly 20.

“Kind of surprising,” Germantown head coach Matt Stuve said. “But Natalie is possibly the best offensive player we have ever had. But it’s sort of pick-your-poison. If you give Kenzie opportunities, she can make you pay, and she did a nice job of taking advantage of the opportunities. She’s a four-year varsity player; she knows there are going to be nights where teams try to take her away.”

As it unfolded, Richmond, the other freshman, proved to be a pain for Cedarburg, too. McNeal only put 7 points on the scoreboard, but her two consecutive layups brought Germantown within 19-12. Schmitz followed with the next two baskets to pull within 21-16, and then Richmond hit one of her two 3-pointers to make it 21-19.

The rally continued when Germantown took a 28-26 lead to halftime and never trailed again. In the middle of the second half, an 11-3 run fueled again by Schmitz and Richmond put Germantown up, 42-33, and the Warhawks coasted to the buzzer.

It was perhaps a testament to the Warhawks’ versatility; even on a night when the shots weren’t falling, they still emerged with a dominant win.

“I think we finished 4-of-29 from the arc,” Stuve said with a grimace. “So, yeah, we’ll have better nights shooting the ball. Other than committing a few too many fouls, I thought they responded well in the second half. It’s 6-0 in the conference. We’ll take it.”

Some of Germantown's struggles were due to the early energy Cedarburg brought defensively. The Bulldogs are confident they’ll find the consistency as the season progresses.

“Obviously, Germantown has an excellent team,” Cedarburg head coach Dave Ross said. “You have to play a complete game to beat them, and we had a very fast start but didn’t have the consistency you would like to see. Our work is cut out for us; we’ll get back to work and continue to improve, and we’ll be a better team by the end of the season.”

Quinn Prom and Shannyn Block led the Bulldogs with 10 points apiece, with Block pulling down seven rebounds. Kennedy Ross scored 8 points and Morgan Wallace and Kalli Murphy 7 each. Murphy also had nine rebounds and three assists.

Abby Belschner collected nine rebounds and Elaina LaMacchia three steals for Cedarburg (7-4, 3-1), which travels to Grafton at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13.