Menomonee Falls boys basketball coach Steve Showalter had a one-word answer to the question regarding whether he felt better about his team after its stunning 82-65 rout of second-ranked and Greater Metro Conference champion Brookfield Central on Feb. 23.
And he should. The big-time win avenged a frustrating 78-75 loss to the Lancers on Jan. 20 and allowed the Indians to right the ship just in time for the WIAA playoffs after losing three of their previous four games.
"We had that stretch where we weren't playing very well," he said, "and if we had gone into the playoffs with three losses in a row, well, we were already feeling down about ourselves. But this gives us confidence. This makes us believe that we can still make something happen."
The Indians finished the regular season at 9-5 in GMC play, good for third place and 15-7 overall, while Central fell to 12-2 and 20-2, respectively.
They earned the fourth seed in the WIAA Division 1 Sheboygan North bracket and will host 13th seed Waukesha West in a 7 p.m. regional semifinal Friday, March 3. If they win, they will host the winner of fifth-seeded Fond du Lac and 12th-seeded Sheboygan South in a regional final Saturday, March 4.
Kimberly is the top seed in the sectional, and Bay Port is second.
Showalter's not sure how to assess his team's chances.
"The sectional isn't overly strong, but we're seeded about where we should be," he said. "The whole Division 1 bracket is funny this year. Aside from Oshkosh North (the top-ranked team in the state), the whole D1 bracket seems up for grabs."
In fact, Falls' victory also puts the D1 West Allis Central sectional, in which Brookfield Central is the top seed, in a state of flux.
The Indians were able to do that with a hot-shooting first half against the Lancers, as they overcame an early 11-4 deficit to take a 46-33 lead at the break.
"They kept putting up these shots in transition," Showalter said, "and they were hitting a lot of them early. They kept taking them, and we were thinking that at some point they couldn't keep hitting those shots, and finally they missed a few.
"Their depth doesn't go as far as ours either. When we get going, it can be tough to keep running with us."
The Lancers couldn't really challenge the Indians in the second half.
Forward Nate Schuster continued his steady play with 22 points, while Cross Wilson had 11, Jaden Champion 10, Conner Allen 8 and Payton Malone 9.
Point guard Justin Gruber was praised for his 6 points, five assists and no turnovers.
"Our other guards like Cross (Wilson) and Jaden (Champion) had their best games of the year, too," Showalter said. 'Nate (Schuster) just remains our most consistent player. He's been averaging 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) a game for awhile now."
As noted, the win allowed the Indians and Showalter to breath a little easier.
"For sure," he said. "After losing two really rough games to teams we thought were beneath our level (West Allis Central and Sussex Hamilton), it was really nice to knock off one of the best teams in the state.
"It couldn't have happened at a better time."