While there were ups and downs throughout the year, the progress the Brookfield East boys basketball team made under first-year coach Joe Rux was evident.
The Spartans improved by seven wins from 4-20 in 2015-16 to 11-12 this past season, going from winless in Greater Metro Conference play to a fourth-place finish at 7-7 in league play.
Rux, who won eight conference titles, eight regional championships and five sectional crowns in 16 years at Manitowoc Roncalli, inherited a Brookfield East program that had went 29-64 and 11-45 in the Greater Metro over the last four seasons.
The future appears bright for Brookfield East just one year into a new system.
“I thought our players did a nice job of adjusting on both offense and defense to a style of play that can be difficult to learn,” Rux said. “It takes time to implement motion principles, and the system we use is pretty complex.
“We took steps in the right direction this season. I think it’s fair to say that the players are pretty excited about the future and are beginning to understand the amount of work it takes to be successful.”
The Spartans began the season 3-5 before starting a three-game winning streak with a 76-41 rout of Sussex Hamilton on Jan. 6. Brookfield East then took down Marquette, 66-48, before handing rival Brookfield Central one of its two losses with a 67-60 overtime victory.
Hovering around the .500 mark the rest of the season, the Spartans completed a season sweep of Marquette and Sussex Hamilton. Brookfield East’s nonconference victories came over Milwaukee Bradley Tech, Kenosha Tremper, Waukesha South and Oconomowoc.
Brookfield East received the ninth seed in the WIAA Division 1 West Allis Central sectional but dropped its playoff opener, 65-63, to eighth-seeded Racine Horlick.
Junior forward Patrick Cartier was named first team All-Greater Metro after averaging 16.8 points per game. Senior guard Jake Graf, who led the Spartans in scoring at 17.8 points per game, earned second team All-Greater Metro.
Brookfield East will have a giant hole to fill with the graduation of Graf, but he was the lone senior in the regular rotation. Other seniors in the program were Raejion Rembert, Joe Serbiak and Jay Van Ert.
The Spartans will look to Cartier to lead the way next season, but he will be surrounded by young talent that gained experience this year.
Sophomores Thomas Francken (5.8 points) and Riley LeTourneau (6.0 points) and freshman Sam McGath (5.6 points) rounded out the starting lineup, while junior Peyton Simon (5.3 points) and freshman Michael Poker (4.9 points) played key roles off the bench.
“We will have the majority of our team returning next season,” Rux said. “Nothing is ever guaranteed, but if we focus on the process and commit ourselves to improving each day, this group will be successful.”