There won't be any late-season drama, and there definitely won't be any sharing for the Brookfield Central boys basketball team.
The Lancers did their part to grab a share of the Greater Metro Conference title with a 64-54 victory over Sussex Hamilton on Friday night and later learned they had clinched the league crown outright with Menomonee Falls losing to West Allis Central.
Brookfield Central locked up its first Greater Metro championship since 2013-14 and its fifth since the conference was formed in 1997 with two league games remaining.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," Brookfield Central coach Dan Wandrey said. "It is awesome -- our kids have worked really hard. We just talked a little bit about what teams are. Obviously, Gage (Malensek) is scoring a lot. But throughout the game and throughout the season, we have different guys step up. That was what was so nice tonight. There were stretches Andres (Peralta-Werns) got hot. There were stretches Cole (Nau) was really good. Sam (Rohde) was good with the ball and made a bunch of free throws. Chris Post playing defense. Nate Verhagen doesn't play a lot of minutes, but the minutes he gives are incredible defensively.
"We talk all the time about that's what good teams are. To accomplish things like conference championships and make deep runs into the playoffs, you need to be able to survive off nights by your best guys."
Since going 14-0 in the Greater Metro in 2013-14, Brookfield Central finished in a tie for fourth place in 2014-15 and took second place behind Marquette a year ago. The Lancers won their first five conference games this season before falling to Brookfield East on Jan. 13. Since then, they've won eight straight, including six consecutive GMC contests, to move to 18-1 and 11-1.
Brookfield Central's five Greater Metro titles are the third-most in league history, only trailing Marquette and Wauwatosa East, which have won eight.
"It means a lot," Lancers senior guard Sam Rohde said. "You feel all the hard work pay off from the offseason. Only one team is able to be (Greater Metro) champions every year. It doesn't happen every year, even if you have a really great program. It is a really great feeling."
After missing the first shot attempt of the game, Sussex Hamilton senior guard Jordan Smith connected on seven consecutive 3-pointers to score 21 points in the first half and send the Chargers into the break with a 29-28 lead.
Smith was the only player going for Sussex Hamilton in the first half, as the rest of the Chargers combined for just 8 points on 4 of 14 shooting, missing all five 3-point attempts.
With the game tied, 35-35, Brookfield Central rattled off a 14-3 run to gain separation, capped when sophomore guard Gage Malensek picked the ball from Chargers freshman J.T. Hoytink, leading to a layup by senior guard Sam Rohde to put the Lancers up, 49-38, with 9:32 to play.
"Once we got that little cushion, they still are going to grind it and get ball reversals and look for really good stuff, but when you are down by eight or nine with seven minutes left, it is tough to take time off the clock," Wandrey said.
Sussex Hamilton wouldn't get within 8 points the rest of the way, as it couldn't hit from distance (2 for 9 in the second half) and missed eight free throws (5 for 13). The Chargers scored just 5 points over a stretch of 7 minutes, 26 seconds to go from being tied at 35-35 to down 11 with 6:26 remaining.
The Lancers, led by sophomore guard Cole Nau, held Smith to just 2 points in the second half. He did not make a field goal after the break, missing all three of his tries from beyond the arc.
"We knew going in he was a shooter, but he lit it up (in the first half)," Rohde said. "We helped off him a little less in the second half, and Cole (Nau) did a nice job locking him down."
Malensek, Rohde and junior guard Andres Peralta-Werns combined to go 20 for 22 from the foul line, and Brookfield Central was 24 for 29 as a team, preventing any chance the Chargers had at a late comeback.
"The difference in my mind was at the free-throw line," Sussex Hamilton coach Andy Cerroni said. "We go 5 for 13 and miss eight free throws. I mean, come on. Look at that team. Great teams make their free throws. That's kind of been our story this year. We've always had a part of the game we haven't put together. I thought our effort was there.
"Our guys battled and didn't back down. We played a pretty damn good team. They had to give us everything they had. There were a lot of good things. But when you play against championship teams, you can't have those lulls. We know we just don't have the firepower to make up for that. Jordan did a heck of a job keeping us in the game, but we knew they were going to find a way to stop him in the second half and that somebody else needed to step up."
Malensek led the Lancers with 23 points, going 8 of 12 from the field and 7 for 7 from the line. Peralta-Werns scored 12 points, while Nau and Rohde each had 11 points.
Freshman forward Lucas Finnessy and sophomore guard Zac Bagley each scored 7 points, and Hoytink added 6 points for Sussex Hamilton, which fell to 8-11 overall and into a fifth-place tie in the Greater Metro with West Allis Central at 4-7.
"We wanted to be spoilers," Cerroni said. "Unfortunately, we weren't. Now we have to just keep rolling and keep getting better. I was happy with a lot of things we did tonight. I'm not saying it is a moral victory, because there are not any, but the bottom line is we have to get better every day."