Entering the 2013-14 season, the West Allis Central boys basketball team had much the same cast as the unit that had struggled to a 10-14 record a year ago.
The Bulldogs, though, turned things completely around in this campaign, posting an impressive 20-5 mark, doubling their victory total, and finishing second behind Brookfield Central at 11-3 in the always-strong Greater Metro Conference.
"The team chemistry was good this season," head coach David Mlachnik said. "In summer, they did a lot of stuff together, working out and taking part in open gyms.
"Also, we had good leadership from our captains, Brandon Key, Ron Turkvan and David Mlachnik. This season was a lot of fun, and we had a great group of kids."
Central enjoyed the most successful season of any of the four area teams, but Whitnall, West Allis Hale and Greenfield all had their moments despite posting losing records.
Central beat City teams
Central's Mlachnik knew even before the first game that his team was better than its 10-14 record the previous season, and the Bulldogs received some early indication of that fact when they won at Milwaukee Vincent and Milwaukee Washington in the early weeks.
Central lost to Menomonee Falls in the final game before winter break but then put together 10 straight victories before falling to Brookfield Central in mid-February.
After another loss to the Lancers, the Bulldogs started a nice WIAA tournament run, including an 84-82 regional triumph over Milwaukee Hamilton and state player of the year Kevon Looney.
The season ended with a sectional loss to Racine Case, which took Milwaukee King into double overtime in a sectional title game.
Central was led by junior guard Key, who averaged 15.4 points, 7.3 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals in earning first-team all-GMC honors.
Senior guard Turkvan tallied 14.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 steals and was also on the all-conference first team.
Senior forward Jaquan Martin scored 12.1 points per game and junior forward Jerome Cummings added 9.8 points per contest.
The Bulldogs lose five seniors in Martin, Turkvan, Austin Block, Keith Leavy and Danny Koefler, but will return Key, Cummings, Mlachnik and junior guard Devaughn Ross next season.
The Falcons finished 11-13 overall and 8-9 in the Woodland Conference, records which would indicate an up-and-down campaign.
"We were inconsistent all season," head coach Steve Kujawa said. "That goes back to the practices, where we didn't always do the things we needed to do."
Part of the Falcons' problem was that they had only two consistent scorers in senior guards Nate Schaefer and Mitch Brault.
Schaefer averaged 20.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists, while Brault was at 15.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest.
After that, junior guard Tre Borland finished at 8.1 points per game and freshman guard Kevion Taylor at 5.7 per outing.
Other teams then were able to focus most of their defensive attention on Schaefer and Borland, making things much more difficult for them.
Whitnall loses seniors Brault, Schaefer, Jon Drew, Chris Kelnhofer, Blake Stencil, Nick Crivello and Matt Pook, but Kujawa is optimistic about next season.
"We had successful junior varsity and freshman teams," he said. "We need to have a big off-season in strength and conditioning, but I like the pieces we have. We also have some strong incoming freshmen who will get a major look.
"We will be more diverse on offense, with five people who can put the ball in the basket, but the question will be whether we can defend on a consistent basis."
The Hustlin' Hawks started out 1-6, then steadied somewhat and finished at 8-15 overall, including 4-14 in the Woodland Conference.
"We had higher expectations than that," head coach Jack Miller said, "but at least we had a better second half of the season. We had some big victories, beating Pewaukee and Whitnall after losing to (the Falcons) the first time. I was pleased with our progress."
Greenfield was never able to establish one go-to scorer, as a number of players took turns leading in particular games.
Senior guard Marcus Myers averaged 11.2 points, senior guard Josh Czerwinski 9.7, junior guard Ben Fularcyzk 8.5, junior guard Jeremy Swider 6.4 and junior forward Ryan Hensiak 6.1.
Czerwinski collected 48 3-point field goals and Fularcyzk 47 on the season.
Greenfield will lose seniors Myers, Czerwinski, Brett Palama, Ryan Kassel, Keagan Blanks and Ennes Assad and will build next season upon Fularcyzk and Hensiak, among others.
West Allis Hale
Although the Huskies finished 7-16, including 3-11 in the Greater Metro Conference, head coach John Palesse believes his team is on the right track.
"I think we put ourselves in a position to have some real success in the next few years," Palesse said. "Our future is bright and I am confident that our guys will put in the necessary work to take the program to the next level."
The coach said Hale's primary problem was being unable to finish games in which it either led or was close in the final quarter.
Junior forward Joey Archer led the Huskies at 16 points per contest and rebounding at 4.3 per game. He was the third-leading scorer in the league and was on the all-conference second team.
"He had some huge games (seven games of over 20 points), but mostly, he was very consistent throughout the season," Palesse said.
Senior guard Noel Crabtree finished at 11.4 points per game and was honorable mention all-conference, while junior guard Jason Palesse was at 8.4 points and a team-leading 3.2 assists per contest, also earning honorable mention.
The Huskies will lose Crabtree, forward Ryan Best and forward Alex Ulrich but will return plenty of firepower next season, with 75 percent of this year's scoring back.
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Whitnall baseball team nips New Berlin Eisenhower in regional thriller
- Whitnall baseball team upsets Muskego in regional title
- Baseball: Franklin pitching proves too strong for Whitnall in WIAA sectional semifinal contest
- Baseball: Fortman pitches Franklin past Greenfield in WIAA regional championship baseball game
- Struggles continue for Greenfield baseball team in regular season's final week
- Whitnall baseball team finishes 0-3 in Woodland Conference Tournament
- Whitnall's Thon compiles outstanding hitting record (1)
- Greenfield baseball team pulls out pair of one-run games in Woodland
- Whitnall baseball team finding more consistency, improving rapidly
- Greenfield softball star Matthias poses huge challenge to opposing hitters