There were ups and downs, highs and lows. However, the Brookfield East girls basketball team proved during the 2016-17 season that it has the talent to play with and beat just about any team in the area.
The Spartans finished 12-12 overall and in sixth place in the Greater Metro Conference at 6-8, but they will return the entire roster from a team that collected numerous high-quality victories, making Brookfield East a dangerous team heading into next season.
"The season was very up and down, with the highs being very high, and the lows being very low," East coach Michael Goodman said. "I guess that is what we should expect from a team with no seniors. We were never quite able to find our consistency. We definitely proved we can play with and beat some of the best teams in the area and state, but we didn't quite have the killer instinct and mindset to take care of teams we should have beaten.
"It sounds like it was a down year, but I'm definitely happy with the progress we made and had the third-highest win total in the last five years — and those teams had seniors. We really only returned about three girls who received consistent varsity minutes last year. We gained valuable court and life experience throughout this season."
Brookfield East won six of its first seven games, including victories over Kimberly, Division 2 state-ranked New Berlin West in overtime and Division 2 sectional finalist Wauwatosa East by 26 points.
After a close loss to Menomonee Falls, the Spartans took down Division 1 state-ranked and eventual sectional finalist Oak Creek. Brookfield East lost the championship game of the Oak Creek Holiday Tournament to Division 2 state champion Beaver Dam but bounced back with a solid nonconference win over Kettle Moraine.
But then came a tailspin in which the Spartans lost six straight, with four of those defeats coming by double digits.
Brookfield East recovered to win two of their next three before losing by 19 points to Brookfield Central in its regular-season finale. The Spartans won their regional opener over Milwaukee Riverside but lost a close battle, 45-43, to Brookfield Central in the regional final.
Junior forward Molly DeValkenaere earned first-team All-Greater Metro after averaging 12.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Junior guard Emma Ralfs (9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.7 steals per game) and junior guard Nikki Pink (5.1 points, 2.9 rebounds) were honorable mention.
DeValkenaere was voted the team's Most Valuable Player, while junior Siobhan Sullivan received the Spirit Award and freshman Rachel Scott was named Most Improved.
In addition to its three All-Greater Metro players, Brookfield East will bring back key rotation members in junior forward Lizzy Cagle (7.1 points, 7.0 rebounds), junior forward Adriana Plavsic (6.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals), junior guard Lauren Davies, junior guard Emma Kiekhofer, Scott and junior forward Carlie Smith.
After having no seniors this past season, the Spartans will likely have 12 next year.
"I think we set ourselves up nicely for the upcoming season," Goodman said. "Very rarely do you have a group of about 12 seniors on one team. Usually, with seniors, the light switch flips, knowing they only have a certain amount of time left, and they play like it. I can't wait to see what happens this offseason and then in the practices and games next season with all the passion and intensity that is brought from a large group who are playing for their careers.
"We have many things to work on, but I'm confident they will work on it together, and be ready to treat every day like it's the last day of Brookfield East basketball, because sooner or later, it will be."