Those around the program knew just how well Brookfield Central's boys basketball team had played to begin the season.
But on the big stage at the Rick Majerus WBY Shootout at Concordia University last week, the Lancers let the rest of the state know exactly what they have going with a pair of blowout wins over top programs.
Brookfield Central cruised to a 73-33 victory over Whitefish Bay on Dec. 27 and controlled Homestead from start to finish in a 59-41 win on Dec. 29 to stay unbeaten on the season at 8-0.
"Is it a message, is it a statement? I don't know," Brookfield Central coach Dan Wandrey said. "I don't get into worrying about that kind of stuff. But I watched Whitefish Bay score 70 to 75 points against teams, and we held them to 33. I watched Homestead (Greg Foster Jr.) the other night doing whatever he wants, and he couldn't get anything easy (against us). Maybe we are pretty good."
Brookfield Central grabbed control midway through the first half against the Blue Dukes, using a 12-0 run to turn a 7-6 lead into a 19-6 advantage on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Cole Nau with 9:32 left before halftime.
The Lancers didn't look back from there, leading 37-15 at the break and eventually putting a running clock on Whitefish Bay.
Whitefish Bay was playing without returning leading scorer David Johnson, who has missed all but one game this season for an undisclosed reason. Current leading scorer Xavier Johnson sat out the first half but played 15 minutes in the second half.
"We've been writing three things down on the board every game: defend, rebound and share the ball," Wandrey said. "Check, check and check. I've watched (Whitefish Bay) play three games. I know they had some weird stuff with their lineups, but guys played. And when they got in, our guys deserve a lot of credit. They followed the scouting report. They work hard on that stuff every day in practice.
"They really wanted to get up and down. They wanted a track meet, and we won the track meet. We got so many easy baskets. Part of that was because very few times they actually set up any kind of defense because they shot under 28 percent."
The Lancers used excellent ball movement and a strong transition game to shoot 54.3 percent from the field, assisting on 18 of 25 made field goals.
Sophomore guard Gage Malensek led Brookfield Central with 24 points with six assists on 7-for-8 shooting. Junior guard Andres Peralta-Werns scored 18 points and was 7-for-15 from the field. Nau scored 8 points with six rebounds, and senior guard Sam Rohde added 8 points and five rebounds.
"It is really helping the team," Malensek said of the ball movement. "It makes everyone confident that if you make the extra pass you know that the other player is going do their job."
While the Lancers weren't particularly sharp offensively in the opening half against Homestead, Peralta-Werns was on fire from beyond the arc.
He connected on six of 10 attempts from distance and scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the first half to help Brookfield Central to a 33-19 halftime lead.
"I don't know how sharp we were in the first half," Wandrey said. "We have had a lot of success by making great plays with our basketball players. We weren't able to do that in the first half, and we didn't execute as well as we would have liked.
"Obviously, Andres just made some huge shots. He got into a zone and then he is hunting it and his teammates find him. That was really nice to see."
After a few questionable shots, Wandrey pulled Peralta-Werns with 10:43 left in the first half. The two had a quick conversation on the sidelines, which led to the junior reentering the game less than a minute later. Peralta-Werns promptly hit his next three 3-point attempts, as the Lancers closed the half on a 10-0 run to lead by 14 at the break after Homestead pulled to within 23-19 with 5:16 before intermission.
"I had a couple of questionable shots in the first half, and Coach took me out and briefly talked to me about my shot selection," Peralta-Werns said. "I understood because we had great ball movement, and once in awhile I killed it with a bad shot. When he put me back in, I made sure I didn't take any bad ones and made sure they were in the flow, and if I couldn't get them, other people could get them for the team."
The Lancers held off each push the Highlanders made in the second half and never let their lead fall under double digits. Homestead closed the gap to 46-36 with 9:13 remaining but scored just 5 points the rest of the way and went scoreless over the final 5 minutes, 40 seconds.
Peralta-Werns finished with 27 points and seven rebounds, while Malensek scored 17 points. Senior forward Chris Post grabbed eight rebounds, while Nau had seven rebounds, as the Lancers outrebounded a much bigger Highlander team.
Homestead was the latest victim of Brookfield Central's smothering defense, as the Lancers have allowed just 41.9 points per game and have held opponents an average of 18.1 points below their scoring averages.
"There's no more evidence that we have to show then what we've done to some teams," Wandrey said. "I'd put this game in that category. This is another team. We held them to 41 points. Our guys are buying into that. All that stuff perpetuates itself. They buy into it and then it works.
"I'll be honest with you, I don't know how good we are. We've done a lot of really good things. When we play defense the way we've been playing, we're going to be in games."
But ranked No. 5 in Division 1 and coming off two complete efforts against talented teams, the Lancers will no longer be able to fly under the radar.
"Being 8-0 is going to put a target on our back," Peralta-Werns said. "I think we can handle it."