Even when his juggernaut state championship teams at Germantown were on a roll a few years, first-year Menomonee Falls boys basketball coach Steve Showalter was constantly on watch, watching for any imperfection or dent in the armor.
He didn't want anything to get in the way of greatness.
His Indians are not at the level of those Germantown teams yet, but they have been impressive in roaring out to a surprising 8-1 record, including a 96-58 rout of host Milwaukee Lutheran on Wednesday, Dec. 28.
But even with the team up by over 30 points in some situations against Lutheran, Showalter could be heard barking at an off-target pass, a failure to block out or an easy layup surrendered.
That's because he does sense something special in this team, and he doesn't want anything to get in the way of what could be achieved, even as Falls improved its remarkable team scoring average to 90.7 points per game.
"We've still got a ways to go," he said. "Our start was really good today, and I don't think they were ready for our pressure (full-court trap), but like other teams, they eventually figure out the pressure, and we need to do a better job of keeping people out of the paint. Our guards need to do a better job of stopping the dribble."
The Indians will continue their chase for excellence when they host 6-1 Monona Grove at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30. Showalter knows the Silver Eagles have been solid for some time, and he'll have a day or so to drum that into his players' heads.
"We need the kids to respect them," Showalter said.
Just like they did the Red Knights (5-5 overall), who are rebuilding after their WIAA D3 sectional finalist team of a year ago graduated a number of seniors. In fact, they have only one senior this season.
And Falls took advantage, rolling out to a 7-0 lead, and then after a Lutheran hoop, scoring the next 16 points in a row to make it 23-2 with 11:26 left in the half. All told, Falls would hit 17 of its first 27 shots in the half en route to building a 50-23 margin.
The Indians were a little flat at the beginning of the second half, but all an 8-0 Lutheran run could do was close the gap to 60-39 with 12:43 left, and that was as close as the Red Knights would get. The lead reached 40 at 96-56 in the final minute or so.
Senior center Matt Henningsen continued his strong start with 18 points, while junior forwards Nate Schuster and Connor Allen provided instant offense off the bench with 14 points each. Senior guard Justin Gruber added 13 and senior guard Cross Wilson, the team's defensive stopper, pumped in 9. Gruber hit the Indians' only two 3-pointers on the night.
"It's good to have our depth," said Showalter, whose team had 10 players score this night. "We see who has the hot hand, and we try to roll with it. It's also good to have Justin back (guard Gruber, who had been injured), while Connor (Allen) had a good game, too. And Cross is so good defensively that anything we get from him offensively is a bonus.
"We took this team very seriously. They have a good coach (in Jim Datka). I remember the tough battles I had with them (when Showalter was at Germantown), and they didn't roll over when we hit them hard. They kept coming. That was the reason why we scheduled them."
To help Showalter gauge any imperfections along the way.