Brookfield East senior forward Mariah Miller did something only a handful of athletes has done during her career — being named to the Now All-Suburban girls basketball team four straight seasons.
Miller made the first team as a freshman, a rare accomplishment in itself, especially considering she was second-team all-Greater Metro Conference. But when a player — girl or boy — averages a double-double (points/rebounds), that is a big accomplishment and one that doesn't happen often at the prep level.
The last three seasons she was first-team all-GMC, and she topped off her senior year by being named to the Division 1 All-State first-team.
Central junior guard Caroline Busch, Brookfield's other Now All-Suburban first-teamer, had high praise for her rival.
'Mariah is a really good player,' Busch said. 'She is going to Cleveland State, which is a good Division 1 school. 'Playing against her, you could see she had such good all-around skills, and she could finish around the basket. She was very strong. It was fun to play against her.'
Miller is proud of the honors and how she got where she is right now.
'I worked hard my whole life to play basketball, so getting all the awards showed me my hard work was paying off,' she said.
The honors didn't surprise Mariah's coach, Michael Goodman.
'I think Mariah is a guarantee, considering this was her best year in four years,' the soft-spoken Goodman said. 'She has been a three-time first-team all-GMC member also.'
Miller averaged 17.6 points per game and grabbed an average of 8.9 rebounds. But she also had 50 assists, 51 steals and 12 blocks.
She shot 43 percent from the field, doing most of her damage inside. When fouled, she went to the free-throw line and converted. She shot 71 percent of her shots.
The Cleveland State recruit even improved from beyond the arc with 25 3-pointers made.
'When I went down (to visit Cleveland State), they talked about me being a wing. So I to work on my shooting and ball-handling,' Miller recalled. 'I think I became a better shooter and a better ball-handler this year.'
When Miller played well, East usually won. She helped the Spartans to a 17-8 record overall, including a 9-5 record in the GMC. Miller scored 20 points and led the Spartans to a win over conference champ Divine Savior Holy Angels, their only loss in league play.
She closed out her career with a 24-point, nine performance in the 80-55 regional title game over Franklin and had 16 points and six rebounds in a 53-51 loss to Oak Creek in her final game in the sectional semifinal.
But that was a long way from her freshman year, when Goodman came aboard and began bringing the program back to respectability.
Turned it around
Miller and her fellow seniors helped Goodman put together a 39-32 record the past three years, including a 27-15 GMC mark in that stretch.
Goodman admitted he put a lot of pressure on Miller and her class.
'I put the senior class in a difficult position four years ago when they were 'thrown to the wolves,'' Goodman said. 'They were asked to make a bad program respectable, win some games and rebuild this program into respectability.
'But (I told them), 'I'm not going to do you any favors by playing easy teams, and you have nobody to learn from; you are going to have to do it all by yourself.'
'We need to do it (play a tough nonconference schedule) because we're in a difficult conference, and I'm going to make a difficult nonconference schedule every year.
'They have really answered the bell. In my first three years, we won five nonconference games out of 24 and won six this year alone. So, we are playing the same teams, just learning to win and showing were we are getting to.'
Miller recalled those early years.
'We knew what we were getting into,' she said. We wanted to win every game. I was confident in my teammates. We had a good attitude, which helped.'
But it the end, Miller was proud of helping turn the Spartans program around.
'It means something to me,' she said. 'I feel really good because we (the seniors) left a legacy on Brookfield East basketball. Those girls carried it out. We did what we have had to do. It was a blessing.'