The wheels are starting to fall off the cart for the Brookfield East boys basketball team, which finished out the holidays with a 5-game losing streak.
After starting the season with a 3-1 record, a short-handed Spartans team has dropped five straight games. The Spartans lost three games to start the streak by a total of 11 points (five, one, five), the last one in that stretch a 59-54 decision to West Allis Hale, which snapped a 58-game Greater Metro Conference losing streak.
But in their last two games against conference contenders, the losing margin was by an average of 22 points a game. East lost at Brookfield Central (53-34) on Dec. 18 and to Sussex Hamilton (57-32) on Friday. Those two teams are a combined 6-0 at the top of the conference and 13-1 overall, with the Chargers being unbeaten and the Lancers' only loss being a heartbreaking 2-point defeat by top-ranked Germantown.
As a result, the Spartans are in last place (0-4) in the GMC and 3-6 overall. They play a non-conference game with New Berlin Eisenhower (7-3) on Jan. 2 and then face GMC foe Marquette (5-2 overall, 3-1 in conference).
It's a familiar story by now - star wing man Brian Smith didn't play until recently, recovering from a foot injury - and Mike Novak, the Spartans' third-leading scorer last year, still hasn't played because of an elbow problem. While others have stepped up, they struggled about the better competition.
Unfortunately, the Spartans had more bad news on Saturday, when Smith told first-year coach Matt Malett he was leaving the team to focus on track and eventually his college football career, since he was a preferred walk-on at the University of Wisconsin.
Malett did get some good news: Novak will be cleared to play Friday; the Spartans' next game is next Wednesday.
Righting the ship will be Malett's first big challenge, since there is a lot of time left in the season.
The Spartans were buried early against preseason favorite Sussex Hamilton on Friday, trailing quickly 15-4 after one quarter and never recovering.
The Chargers and Spartans had a high-scoring second period (20-13), but East trailed 35-17 at intermission. East then lost the second-half battle (22-15).
There was good free throw shooting by both sides (15-for-19) as East went 6-for-8.
The Spartans' main problem was Brady Ellingson, one of the top players in the conference, who scored 25 points, including 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. Eight other players scored between two and seven points for Sussex.
Jonathan McGinley led East with 10 points, while Ryan McBride and Kyle Martin had seven.
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