After his team's frustrating 95-88 opening night loss to Milwaukee Hamilton on Tuesday, new Germantown boys basketball coach Steve Martin did get a little laugh when reminded of the fact that even his hard-charging predecessor Steve Showalter had some growing pains and lost a few in his early days before he hit the state championship jackpot.
Then Martin reminded himself of what himself, Showalter and other coaches always know — that there's always a chance to get better.
"The thing is, you play one play at a time, one game at a time," he said. "You always have to wait for the next game (Friday, Dec. 2 at home against Nicolet), but you don't have to wait to improve. We can got into the gym the next day and get right to work."
And he and the Warhawks will be happy to do just so.
Because despite a prolific offensive effort led by senior forward Kyle Clow's 31 points, there is plenty for Germantown to learn from this roller-coaster effort.
Germantown fell behind by as many as eight in the first half (25-17) to the young, small and not-as-deep (just nine players) Wildcats, but the Warhawks put on a 17-5 surge to close the half. It included five free throws with no time left on the clock, including three by senior guard Zach Behrendt after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer and then two more by Clow on a Hamilton technical foul.
After those tosses, Germantown was up 50-39 at the break.
The Warhawks went up by as much as 14 (58-44) and were still up a 63-50 count with 12:07 left, but that's when things started to unravel.
They couldn't contain sophomore forward Carlos Ramsey, who scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half, nor could they keep the active Wildcats off the offensive boards, as they collected 21 of them, turning many of them into points.
Germantown was up, 67-58, with just under 10 minutes to go, when the Wildcats unleashed a 24-7 run that pulled them ahead, 82-74, with 4:34 remaining.
Ramsey had 10 points in the outburst and included in the effort were several of Hamilton's 21 offensive rebounds.
"We had to do a better job on the boards," Martin said, "and we also had to do a better job of containing them off the dribble. We're also a team that wants to play fast, but we want to play fast and make good choices. When we had a lead, maybe we got going a little too quick and made some poor choices."
The Warhawks surged back with a late 8-2 burst as a Bryce Thomas shot with 1:19 left closed the gap to 90-88, but after the teams traded turnovers, the Warhawks could get no closer. A missed lay-up, a missed three-shot opportunity and then the clincher. Ramsey hit the first of a two-shot foul with 23 seconds left to make it 93-88. He missed the second shot only to have teammate Darius Hannah tip it in for the final points of the game.
For the winners, Ramsey got help from junior guard Keontae White who came up with 28 points. The Wildcats hit 16 of 33 free throws. Meanwhile, Germantown's Clow got help from Thomas with 16, Behrendt with 14 and Randy Johnson with 13. Germantown downed 26 of 33 free throws.
"There are still a lot of things we can be proud of," Martin said, "because for a lot of these kids (with the exception of Clow and Thomas) this was their first varsity experience ever. It's a good thing we can now get back into the gym and fix some things."