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Hitting on all cylinders and crossing off items on a checklist.

This is what the Menomonee Falls boys basketball team accomplished with its stunningly easy, 82-37 rout of rival Sussex Hamilton before a packed house in the Falls gym on Jan. 13.

They beat their rivals in new coach Steve Showalter's first go-around in this old and intense rivalry where insults are as common as bags of popcorn.

The Indians established a level of defensive intensity Showalter has been looking for all season that was downright frightening at times.

And thanks, in part, to Brookfield East, they sit in a flat-footed tie for first in the Greater Metro Conference with state-ranked Brookfield Central. East beat the Lancers in overtime in the two teams' own rivalry matchup.

"We have to go back to the beginning because we started out incredibly well," said Showalter when discussing a particular point about the game. "We came out with passion and fire. The way we know we can play. It's what we've been waiting for all season. We're now able to stick guys with fresh legs in there as often as we want because we've gotten guys back from sickness and injury.

"We can play the way we want to right now."

That particular way, coupled with a rout of West Allis Central on Jan. 10, improved Falls to 5-1 in GMC play and 11-3 overall.

They will head over to Brookfield Central on on Friday, Jan. 20, in a first-place showdown. It will be reminiscent for Showalter of three years ago, when his two-time state champion Germantown team went into a talented Central team's lair on a snowy January night and saw its state-record, 69-game winning streak broken.

"I think I remember that one," he laughed as he shook hands and went back into the Falls gym.

Germantown would go on to win its third straight state title that year, but the Falls players will be looking to create their own memories on Jan. 20.

"We're already thinking about it," said senior guard Cross Wilson, one of four Indians in doubles figures against Hamilton with 12 points and Falls' designated defensive stopper. "We know Central is a good team, but for us, it's all about finding our game. We're capable of doing what we did tonight every night."

If they do, it could be a long night for Central. Attacking on both the offensive and defensive end with relentless intensity against a young Charger team (two freshmen and one sophomore in the starting lineup), the Indians scuffled for a few moments at the beginning and then went on a 13-2 run that gave them the lead for good at 15-6 with 10:57 left in the half.

It went a little back and forth for a short time, and when the Chargers' Dylan Gissal hit a 3-pointer with 7:25 to go, Hamilton had closed the gap to 25-15.

That's when the Indians put the hammer down. With Wilson and fellow senior guard Jaden Champion getting into the passing lanes at will on Falls' half-court trap, the Indians created one-fast-break opportunity after another over the final seven minutes of the half. A 19-0 run that included two of senior guard Justin Gruber's three 3-pointers made it 44-15 before Hamilton's J.T. Hoytink hit a layup just before the halftime buzzer.

Falls would carry that energy and intensity into the start of the second half, which began with a 15-2 Falls run that turned this game into the most lopsided result the rivalry has seen in years.

Showalter ran in players in four- and five-man waves, like he said, to keep people fresh.

"That way we can keep them playing hard, which is a lot better for us," he said.

Improved defense

Wilson feels the Indians are buying into Showalter's call for better defense as this was a season-best low opponents' total.

"Defense is all about effort," he said. "We put in a lot of effort tonight, and it really showed up on the scoreboard."

Only one Hamilton player, Jordan Smith with 12 points, broke into double figures. Meanwhile, Nate Schuster (20 points), Gruber (13) and Matt Henningsen (14) also broke into double figures for the Indians.

Falls' effort on the defensive side of the ball pleased Showalter to no end.

"We didn't want them to be able to pass out over the top and start the cycle all over again," he said, noting the Chargers greatly slowed down the game on Jan.10 in their near upset effort of Brookfield Central. "Wilson and Champion immediately took to heart what we were preaching. We got into the lanes, and we got on runs, which is what we were looking for."

"We knew we were the better team going into this one," Wilson added. "It was all about forcing bad decisions."

Intense rivalry

Showalter was also impressed with the intensity the Indians brought to this long-held and often testy rivalry that saw Hamilton fall to 1-4 in league play and 5-7 overall.

"I was at a lot of Germantown-Homestead games," he said, "and they're very comparable. But I've been talking to people in the Falls since June, and all they ever ask is 'When do you play Hamilton?' I'm trying to look at a big picture here. I want to win this game and then the next and then the next, but we definitely wanted to beat them. The kids got up for this one.

"They were excited and really busted the door down."

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