The culture was the key thing for the Menomonee Falls girls basketball team this winter under first-year coach Derek Woelffer.
The Indians finished at 11-12 but were actually much more competitive than that behind a strong senior class. They just had problems in close games (59-57 to Muskego, 50-47 Brookfield East and 38-37 Whitefish Bay, to name three), but Woelffer saw more cohesion and competitiveness as the season went along.
That included second half of the season wins over eventual sectional semifinalist Brookfield Central and Greater Metro Conference champ and archrival Sussex Hamilton.
It was all very encouraging to Woelffer.
"The kids really bought into the family aspect of things," he said. "Top to bottom, down to the youth programs you could really see a change. The biggest thing that we wanted to do was prove that we were a good basketball team, that we could beat good teams and we did that with Hamilton and Brookfield Central. These were teams we hadn't beaten in years.
"We also had second-half leads in both games against DSHA. Things like that proved to the varsity kids that they could compete."
The senior class led the way for the Indians, led by four-year veterans like Marissa Igunbor and Madison Grzesiak. Igunbor was truly the catalyst of the team, as the 5-foot-8 guard was a quad-captain (along with fellow guards Karly Volz and Madison Grzesiak and forward Alyssa Marks) and was a leader in almost all significant statistical categories.
A first-team All-Greater Metro Conference selection, she was also chosen for the WBCA Coaches All-Star game this summer. She will attend the University of Chicago.
"She was the heart and soul of the team and did everything we asked her to," said Woelffer. "Everyone followed her lead."
She averaged a team high 14.4 points per game, shot 46 percent from the field, was third on the team in rebounds (6.4 per game), averaged 4.8 assists per game (110), with 71 steals and 12 blocks. She even improved her free throw shooting this year to 55 percent (80-of-145).
Igunbor was the leader of the seven-person senior class that also included Volz, Grzesiak, Marks, Jordan Lemieux, Allie Paulson and Elena Beck. The four co-captains started every game while junior center Jessica Boerner also started many games.
The seniors helped with the cohesion, said Woelffer.
"I liked how we played together," said Woelffer. "We were a much better team when we shared the ball. We took good shots, we competed on defense and the girls really celebrated for and cheered each other on."
Boerner was was the second leading scorer (8.4) and second-leading rebounder (6.5). Marks led the team in rebounds at 7.2 per game. Grzesiak averaged 7.8 points, while Volz averaged 7.7 and Marks 6.1 ppg. Grzesiak, Volz and Boerner were all honorable mention all-conference.
Woelffer admitted it will be a different look for the Indians next year because the seniors did have such a big impact on the program.
"They were the face of Falls basketball for a long time," he said. "This will be a big step for our underclassmen."
The junior varsity went 14-8 this season while the freshmen were a little below the .500 mark.
"We really experienced some growth this season," said Woelffer.