In first-year Germantown boys basketball coach Steve Martin's mind, it was simple: if the Warhawks were going to succeed, they were going to have to play better defense.
They did in an emotional win over Marquette on Jan. 7 and then built on that effort with a 72-61 nonconference win over Kettle Moraine on Jan. 10 and a not-as-close-as-it looked 73-54 rout of North Shore Conference rival Port Washington on Jan. 13. The pair of victories ran the Warhawks' season-best winning streak to a modest but emotionally significant three games.
"We've been explaining to them all this time that the road to success for us was going to be built on the defensive side of the ball," Martin said. "It's not a coincidence that we won when we held Marquette to 55 or Kettle Moraine to 61. It's just really part of a process for us."
The two victories improved the Warhawks to 5-7 overall. They will have semester exams this week and then will visit NSC foe Milwaukee Lutheran on Friday, Jan. 20.
There is an opportunity for the Warhawks to improve the winning streak in the next few games, Martin noted, but it's going to have come from within if they want to do it.
"Our biggest competition is ourselves," he said. "We have to play Germantown basketball to the best of our ability, and the kids know they need a workmanlike attitude to do that."
They adopted that against Port, as they roared out to a 53-32 halftime lead and never looked back. The best part of the game in Martin's eyes, however, came right before he emptied the bench midway through the second half.
"In the first four minutes of the second half, when the starters were still in, Port didn't score; they were stuck on 32," he said. "As a coaching staff, that made us really proud."
Four players had a total of 11 3-pointers, as forward Kyle Clow led all scorers with 25 points, Colin Lindwall had 11, Zach Behrendt 9 and Bryce Thomas 8.
Martin then used the remainder of the second half to empty the bench and let players such as Clow, Thomas, etc. get some well-needed playing time.
"We got everybody playing time, right to the very end of our bench," Martin said.
Martin was also very pleased with the road win over Kettle Moraine, noting he and his staff have a lot of respect for the Lasers. It was 35-31 Germantown at the break and then the Warhawks gradually pulled away. A 23-32 effort from the foul line helped, as post Ethan Meyer hit 11 of 14 free throws for the game, most of them in the second half en route to 19 points. Clow led the way with 21, and Lindwall added 12.
"Kettle Moraine kept making little pushes," Martin said, "but we were able to step up and get some key shots when we needed them. Kyle (Clow) really stepped up and made some big plays offensively."
Martin would love to see the Warhawks keep moving forward.
"Our first priority this week are exams, but then we'll get right back after it and get ready for Lutheran," he said.