Brookfield East boys basketball coach Andy Farley pulled one out of the book of the late coaching legend Jim Valvano Friday night when he went into the corridor above the visiting lockers at Menomonee Falls and started hugging every assistant in sight.
And Farley had good reason to do so, as his Spartans improved to 3-0 with a stunning 73-52 rout of host Falls in both teams' Greater Metro Conference opener.
"This is a big win," he said, "because the GMC is just so good. To get the first one is great for a number of reasons. The kids were really ready to play."
No more so than junior guard Brian Smith.
The Spartans had built a 33-18 halftime lead on the Indians (0-1), as Falls had enormous foul troubles in the first half with the much quicker Spartans (four players with two checkmarks apiece in the first quarter and East in the 10-foul super-bonus already at the 1:55 mark of the initial session).
But the Indians rallied in the third.
Falls scored the first six points of the session to cut it to nine. East got baskets from Smith and Billy Dietz to bump the advantage back up to 13, but in short order the Indians got a three-pointer from Zach Weyenberg, a hook shot from Zach Murray and another trifecta from North Carolina recruit J.P. Tokoto to close the gap to 37-32 with 3:42 left.
The crowded Falls' gym was a noisy place at that time.
But that's when Smith, who led East with 21 points, took over and helped the Spartans put away the pesky Indians for good.
Falls forced another East miss and had a chance to cut the margin to three, but couldn't cash in. Smith then got a run-out and an easy lay-up to make it 39-32.
The Indians followed with two inside misses and East ran a good play to get junior guard Ryan McBride an easy lay-up to make it 41-32.
After another Indian miss, Smith drained a baseline three-pointer, and after another stop, the 6-4 ballhandler got another breakaway, this time finishing with a thunderous dunk at the 1:27 mark of the third to make 46-32.
The advantage would never drop below 11 again.
"We have so many good guards," said Farley, "who did so many good things, all of them stepped out, but Brian (Smith) just gives us some great spurts and we really fed off that."
Falls coach Dan Leffel, who was making his debut with the Indians this night, was disappointed in the showing for the Indians on their senior night. Falls had been a pre-season pick for second in the league behind the 6-6 Tokoto and senior guard C.J. Malone by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook, while the Spartans had been slated to finish only seventh.
"That was a humbling experience," Leffel said. "The key was, that we tried a little too hard. It was our first game. The guys wanted to play aggressively and they wound up pushing too hard and wound up bumping them and picking up easy fouls, which the officials will call."
"We just didn't learn from that fast enough and were just a little bit flat from the start."
Falls' only lead came on a Tokoto drive just 18 seconds into the game but Nick Kanavas gave East the lead for good at the 7:13 mark of the first quarter on a three-ball from the top of the key.
The Spartans would have seven threes on the night. Despite four of 16 shooting in the first quarter, and getting outrebounded by a substantial margin the session, Falld was still only down 12-8 at period's end.
East stretched the lead out to 33-18 in the second with the help of a 7-0 run at the end of the half, including a three from Dietz.
"Our gameplan was simple," said Farley. "Take care of the ball and rebound the ball and we did a great job of both. We knew that we were going to face some pressure from them (the Indians tried to trap to little effect all night), but we have kids who can handle the ball. They did a great job of setting the tone."
"We simply did not accept their pressure."
Smith got help from Kanavas with 15 points while Mike Novak and Dietz had 12 apiece. Tokoto, who had to leave the game for a short time in the seond half with a cut above his eye, had 25 points to lead all scorers, while Malone contributed 12.
"The kids were disappointed and so was I," said Leffel. "I didn't want to lose my first game and they didn't either, but we can come back from this. ...The team you saw today was not the team that we really are. We've got to forget this one, have a short memory and move on."
"We'll try to make a positive out of this."
Meanwhile, in just the second week of the season, the Spartans have already earned themselves a lot of positive reinforcement.
"We now have so many guys who can do so many things, who can score," said Farley. "We're getting little flashes (of excellence) out of almost everyone."
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