The play for Germantown with 41 seconds left in the heated, messy and exciting border battle Saturday night between the Warhawk girls basketball team and their counterparts from Menomonee Falls was supposed to go this way.....
Or maybe not.
"There wasn't really a set play," said Germantown coach Matt Stuve of his team's attacking and pressing style. "We sort of run on the idea that if you have an open shot, shoot it. We actually didn't call a set play all night. We only have about four of them and the girls have probably forgotten them anyway (laughs)."
So that's how the ball wound up in the hands of senior forward Megan (Maggie) Johnston who calmly drained the Warhawks' 11th and last three-pointer of the night from the right wing to give Germantown the lead for good at 82-81.
Germantown forced four more misses out of their friends from across Country Line Road in the remaining seconds and wound up draining three of four free throws in that same time span as it eased away with a wild 85-81 victory.
"Boy, what a fun game," said Johnston, who was one of four Warhawks in double figures with 10 points. "We were sort of playing for a lay-up there and the three-pointer just happened. This team knows how to get the pass to the right person."
Who, in this instance happened to Johnston.
"Maggie's a real competitor," said Stuve. "She's not afraid to take a shot in that kind of situation."
With the win, the Warhawks improved to 6-3 overall, as they broke 80 points for the third time in four games.
Meanwhile, the Indians fell to 3-4 as they continue to work through the most difficult part of their schedule. They had come off a tough Greater Metro Conference defeat at the hands of DSHA the night before and again were not playing with starting point guard Amber Bullock, who is still battling concussion symptoms.
That became very important to Falls late in the game. The Indians trailed by four 69-65 going into the fourth but had fought back to take the lead on three separate occasions, the last time on an opportunistic hoop by Mikayla Robertson with 1:34 left to make it 80-78 Indians.
But one of their two remaining point guards, Anna Smalley, had fouled out with 2:08 remaining, and then the other, Haley Precia, went out with her fifth foul with 1:25 remaining.
A free throw by Robertson with 1:14 left made it 81-78 Falls, as Germantown was struggling at the line at that point, but Stuve immediately recognized the Falls predicament and intensified the press.
The result was three straight Falls' turnovers, one of a difficult to overcome 11 in the final stanza for the Indians. It eventually led to Johnston's three-pointer and a short time later Paige Groth knocked down two free throws with 25 seconds left to make it 84-81.
Falls then missed three close-in shots on the next possession before the Warhawks' Taylor Higginbotham nailed the second of two free throws with nine seconds left to clinch the victory.
"We actually have three outstanding point guards," said Indian coach Craig Amundson.. "It was unfortunate that none of them were available to play at the end. ...We were actually expecting them to press in that situation with Amber (Bullock) out."
"We didn't panic, and I actually thought it was one of our better games."
The game had turnovers too numerous to count and fouls in abundance, as the Indians hit 28 of 40 free throws and Germantown 22 of 41, but the Warhawks deeper bench, with Stuve frequently rotating in five new players every couple of minutes, paid dividends in the end.
"You go as hard as you can for as long as you can," he said of his system.
Consequently, the surges in the game were like a demented roller-coaster ride.
Germantown went up 10-2 initially, only to have the Indians rally back for a 25-19 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
And an 8-2 run in the middle of the second helped Falls go up 36-26 with 4:19 left in the half.
But Amundson took a calculated risk, with Precia, Robertson and all-world center Erin Crownover all saddled with two fouls, he decided not to risk third fouls and so did not play them during the stretch run of the second quarter.
Germantown took advantage, outscoring Falls 17-6 the rest of the half. Falls still had a 41-35 lead with 2:31 left in the half, but a three-pointer by the Warhawks' Val Meissner started an 8-1 run that put Germantown up 43-42 going into the break.
The Warhawks nursed a small lead throughout the third quarter and that eventually led to the final stanza's high theater.
"It was a high-possession game and so we decided to stay with what we do best," said Stuve. "...We just tell the girls to give maximum effort and things will take care of themselves."
Bridget Kelley led Germantown with 19 points while Meissner had 11 (including three, three-pointers); while Miska Cantley also had 11 with two trifectas and Johnston wound up with two treys to her credit. Higginbotham had nine points with two three-pointers.
Crownover continued her strong play for Falls with 23 points while Robertson had 19 and Erin Otzelberger 12.
"It was the second straight gamne where we played very hard," said Amundson. "We just didn't get the win. I didn't feel too bad playing at their pace because I think we're a pretty good transition team ourselves."
"It was a fun game to watch, but the kids didn't like the loss."
Stuve thinks this game can be a stepping stone for his squad.
"This is always a big game for us," he said. "Falls is a talented team even with Bullock out of the line-up. You look down the road at the (WIAA) playoffs and this game could mean a lot (in terms of seeding)."
"That tough loss we had on Tuesday to (North Shore co-leader) Cedarburg taught us a lesson, so it became imperative for us to come out here and beat a good opponent like the one we faced tonight."