In his many years at Germantown building a powerhouse that eventually won three WIAA state titles, new Menomonee Falls boys basketball coach Steve Showalter had to learn patience as it took him close to a decade before the Warhawks even won a conference title.
In his first year on the other side of the County Line Road divide, you get a sense of urgency that Showalter wants things to move a little faster.
Such was the case Friday, when hardly anyone else was playing due to the snowy weather, the Indians established a solid lead over visiting Brookfield East and never let the Spartans get within five in the second half in recording a 71-61 victory. It was their third Greater Metro Conference victory in a row and improved them to 5-1 overall, a start Showalter couldn't have dreamed of close to 20 years ago at Germantown.
And yet, you got the sense Showalter wanted more out of his small but quick, talented, deep and relentless squad.
"We want to run, but you can't run when you turn it over, you can't run when you foul," he said. "This is the third or fourth time already this season we've had over 20 turnovers in a game, which I've never had. We can accept some the way we play, but we have things we have to fix."
And then he remembered to accentuate the positive.
"Our pressure defense is good at times, and when we can get the ball out and run, we can wear people down a bit," he said. "There were times when our tongues were dragging a bit tonight, too, but we hope it happens to them more than us."
Fast and quick
One thing is for certain, the entertainment value is high as the Indians also recorded a dramatic 100-94 overtime win over West Allis Hale on Dec.13 in a game where 6-5 senior post Matt Henningsen turned everyone's head with a remarkable 40 points.
"I love this quick, fast style we're playing," said Henningsen, who was an all-state linemen for the Indians' football team in the fall. "We're getting up and down the court, but there are also big-man plays, which are great, too. This (the 5-1 record) has not surprised us. We knew we had a good group of seniors coming in, and we know we have the potential to do some great things that we've never done here before."
And it's that kind of attitude Showalter wants to foster.
"These kids never played this way before," Showalter said. "They're good kids. They want to work hard and try to get to the next level. They don't want to let mistakes or failure slow them down."
Meanwhile, a very young East team fell to 1-2 in GMC play and 2-3 overall.
Coach Joe Rux felt his team is just a good consistent run away of doing some very good things.
"When we run our stuff and do a good job of staying disciplined, we can do a good job of breaking down an intense pressure defense like the kind Falls runs," he said, "but when we get a bit undisciplined, we can go too fast and quick, and an athletic and quick team like Falls can take advantage of that."
Such as late in the first half, when Falls was up, 22-18. The Spartans had a chance to cut the margin twice but missed two front ends of the bonus. Falls then snapped off a 16-5 run that put the Indians up 38-23 with 35 seconds left in the half. Junior forward Nate Schuster came off the bench to provide 7 of the points in that run.
"We expect a lot out of Nate," Showalter said, "because he has some offensive skills that other guys on the team don't have."
Still, some of that inconsistency came back to bite Falls, as the Spartans scored two quick buckets before the half's end to make it 38-27.
That trend continued midway through the second half, as every time the Indians threatened to pull away, East came back.
A key moment came with about 11 minutes left and Falls up, 49-43. East had a bucket wiped out due to a charging call that would have cut the margin to four. Henningsen then hit two free throws to make it 51-43.
Then with 5:24 to go, East's Sam McGath hit a 3-pointer to make it 57-52 Falls, the closest moment of the second half. Falls was coming off a cycle of four straight turnovers, but then got two big free throws from Schuster at the 4:04 mark. The Indians then forced a couple of Spartan turnovers, as Justin Gruber and Jalen Dixon got a pair of big buckets to finally give the Indians breathing space at 65-52 with 3:15 left. The final score was the closest it got after that point.
"We were right there with the lead at five points; we just needed to make another play," Rux said. "We played well in spurts with a good Falls team, but we need to build from this and get better."
Post Patrick Cartier led East with 16 points, while Riley Le Tourneau and Jake Graf had 9 apiece and Peyton Simon 8.
Falls was led by Henningsen with 18, while Schuster had 17, Gruber 9 and Trevon Williams 8.
Like Rux, the urgent Showalter wants the Indians to keep improving.
"We need two days of practice to get ready for a team," said Showalter, whose team has four nonconference games over the holiday break, "and with this weather, we're not going to get that because I'd like to see the guys get better on Monday and then get even better on Tuesday. If we had cleaned up our mistakes tonight, the score would have been much different."