The Menomonee Falls High School boys basketball team is enjoying something of a resurgent season under first-year coach Steve Showalter, utilizing deep and versatile junior and senior groups.
If Showalter can be a touch patient, he can repeat that success and then some, as both the Falls North Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade teams just finished their campaigns with matching 13-0 records.
"We've had one or the other finish unbeaten at times," said seventh-grade coach JJ Tischer, "but this is the first time that we can remember both teams finishing this way at the same time."
The groups are headed up by veteran leadership. Tischer is in his 17th year with the middle school team while eighth-grade coach Scott Park has been at it for 23 years.
Tischer said that both groups are a unique blend of speed and size.
"Both groups also have a great work ethic," he said. "They come in every day trying to get better and they both bring an unbelievable skill set. They have a great willingness to just come out and play. They just really like the game."
There are also a great number of multi-sport athletes who are involved, too.
"I attribute a lot of their success to that," Tischer said. "They bring part of what they've learned in other sports to us and that really helps."
The middle school basketball season starts about the same time as the high school season in November, but closes up shop a bit earlier than the prep athletes do. The conference they play in is a little different, too, as it includes a wide number of schools from the area, including Brown Deer, Templeton in Sussex, Germantown, Slinger, West Bend and others.
The game itself is different, too, said Tischer, mixing in a more egalitarian philosophy getting everyone playing time while still trying to win.
The games are four, six-minute quarters and the rules state that no starters can play in the second quarter. Still, given that, the Falls teams won many games easily.
"It's actually a good thing," said Tischer of the second quarter rule. "It forces you to be more strategic and this way, a lot of kids get experience and plenty of playing time."
There's a lot of camaraderie between the groups, said Tischer. The teams split the old gym at North with a curtain down the middle at practice and are very supportive of one another.
"Scott (Park) and I try to keep it enjoyable, because these kids came up together through (grade) school and the Junior Indians' program," said Tischer. "They know each other well and have a good time together."
Though there is no open coordination with the high school program yet, Tischer said he and Park work with Showalter's up-tempo, high-pressure attack philosophy.
"We're trying to incorporate what Steve does, follow in his footsteps, though there have been no formal meetings," Tischer said. "That being said, we do have a lot of set plays for when teams try to slow us down."
The end result was a huge surprise to both, said Tischer.
"We thought we'd be good," he said, "but things came along faster than we thought."
A key moment said Tischer was when the eighth grade team beat West Bend in triple overtime, the first time they had beaten beaten West Bend in quite some time.
The big finish came on a recent late January afternoon. The programs were closing out their seasons with home games against Grafton. The seventh-graders went out first and won their game.
"And then I told Scott 'No pressure,'" laughed Tischer.
The eighth-graders held up their end, getting out to a huge early lead before hanging on, 54-48.
Tischer said it was all a lot of fun.
"We're very excited about these teams," he said. "We'll be waiting to see what these two groups can do three to four years down the line."
Team rosters include the following: seventh grade: Liam Coad, Marquis Wilson, Houston McKenzie, Ryan Walczak, Promise Maduka, Carson Mack, Amariun Taylor, Caden Wilson, Evan Redding, Nolan Klug, Grant Martin, Landon Sims, Steven Clay, Ahman Brewah, Owen Tautges and Seth Trimble; eighth grade: Jack Bleimehl, Joey Tabbert, Austin Trzebiatowski, Nathan McLean, Dominic Piel, Colton Marshall, Colton Smith, Colin Heckman, Stephan Taylor, Robert Redding, Brandon Anderson, Ryan Kruk, Samuel Tate, Kyle Smith and Darian Stephan.