RAMSTEIN, Germany -- Friday’s Division I clash between the WIesbaden Warriors and Ramstein Royals left both sides confident in their ability to win the big games that await them in 2017.

But only one could get the win to end 2016.

The two-time defending champion Royals erased an early double-digit deficit and resisted a furious final-minute rally to edge the Warriors 46-44 in the last game of the calendar year for both squads.

Brendan Hicks dropped in what proved to be the game-winning layup with 40 seconds to play to decide a game that was every bit as challenging as Royals coach Andrew O’Connor predicted.

“I told the team before, ‘It’s going to be ups and downs. You just have to fight through,’” O’Connor said. “I thought my team was completely together today. Just very proud of the effort.”

Ramstein fell behind 18-8 through one quarter but steadily caught up, drew even and pulled ahead over the following three quarters, peaking with a seemingly comfortable 43-36 advantage late in the fourth.

Wiesbaden tapped into its own resilience in response. The Warriors quickly scored eight unanswered points on the stunned Royals, the last two on an Isaah Negron layup that put the visitors up 44-43.

But a hustling Hicks put the Royals right back on top, teammate Naser Eaves chased down a key loose ball and made a late free throw and the Warriors missed two potential go-ahead three-pointers in the final minute to give the final edge to Ramstein.

Ramstein guard Nick Bautista said the Royals figured out their defensive rotations and curtailed the Warriors’ “easy looks” to climb out of that early 10-point hole.

“We’re a good team, we knew that we could come back,” Bautista said. “It was our fault that we got into the situation so we had to get ourselves out of it. We couldn’t lose hope.”

Wiesbaden coach David Brown said his team got “really complacent” after racing out to a sizable early lead, then fell into a habit that has haunted them over a 1-2 start to the season.

“We kind of fell in love with the three-point line. That’s a problem for us,” Brown said. “We’re kind of addicted.”

Still, Brown said the game was a “good learning experience” for the Warriors, and the team’s ability to both build a big lead and recover from adversity suggests good things in Wiesbaden’s future.

The same, of course, can be said for the Royals.

“It gives us extreme confidence,” said Bautista of Ramstein, which split its season-opening doubleheader with Vilseck and will take a 2-1 record into the holiday break. “We’re molding now, and I’m excited for the new year.”

Eaves scored 15 points and Kendell Allen scored nine of his 10 points in the fourth quarter to lead Ramstein. Negron had 12 points to pace the Warriors.

Twitter: @broomestripes

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