One of the more impressive boys basketball turnarounds this season came at Greenfield High School.
The Hustlin' Hawks posted just three victories in the previous season but more than quadrupled that figure, finishing 13-10 overall and 10-6 in the Woodland Conference, good for third place in the East Division behind Whitnall and Brown Deer.
The improvement came under first-year head coach Kyle Johnsen, and it was fueled by the arrival of senior Rayvon Bartlett from Wauwatosa West and the return of senior Donnie Reasby, who had not played as a junior.
"The kids bought into what we were preaching," said Johnsen, who immediately installed an up-tempo system which increased the scoring. "They understood what we were trying to do and worked hard."
Elsewhere in the area this season, West Allis Central certainly had its peaks and valleys during an 11-12 campaign and West Allis Hale struggled most of the way at 5-19.
Here is an overview of these three teams.
The Hawks started out 6-1 and scored at least 70 points in every game, including a 105-102 overtime triumph over Bay View and a big 77-70 victory over perennial power Pius XI early in December.
"We were able to win some games early," Johnsen said, "and the victory over Pius gave us confidence."
The Hawks had some ups and downs the rest of the way but posted a nice victory over Whitnall, 63-62 in overtime.
Their key all season was offensive balance, as they wound up with five players averaging double figures: Bartlett at 15 points per game, senior Jared Davis at 12.6, senior Manny McDonald at 12.2, Reasby at 11.3 and junior Eric Malone at 10.2.
In addition, all but Malone could hit from the outside. Bartlett finished with 37 3-pointers, Davis 20, McDonald 38 and Reasby 35.
"We were happy to have different weapons and not rely on one or two people to score," Johnsen said.
Bartlett earned a unanimous spot on the all-Woodland East first team this season, with Davis making the second team and Reasby and McDonald both honorable mention.
Besides the balance, there were other reasons for Greenfield's success.
"I think the kids learned how to win," the coach said. "They worked hard in every practice, and they held each other accountable."
Greenfield will lose many players to graduation: Bartlett, Reasby, McDonald, Davis, Zeke Banks, Drew Kassel, Nathan Orlowski, David Smith and Rudy Rodriguez but will return Malone as well as other varsity contributors such as Elijah Rosario, Sam Streeter and Billy Pitroski.
In addition, some others are expected to come up from this year's junior varsity, such as freshman Omarion Bartlett, Rayvon's brother, who hit four 3-point shots in limited action late this season.
"We actually have four players back who started at least one game this year," Johnsen said. "It should be exciting; we have a lot of sophomores who will do good things and have a lot of potential. We will miss the seniors; they left a map for us to follow."
West Allis Central
The Bulldogs endured a strange season, starting out 3-8 and 0-6 in the Greater Metro Conference and then winning eight of nine games, with the lone loss coming to conference champion Brookfield Central, before finishing with three losses.
The defense was solid all season, but the offense struggled at times, as indicated by the fact that Central had no one average double figures.
Jared Welsch, a senior forward, topped the team at 9.5 points per game, followed by senior guard Paysharne Jelks at 7.9 per outing and junior guard Montae Blakely 6.8 per contest.
In addition, sophomore forward Jacob Fierst, junior guard Noah Semb-Lovejoy, senior guard Kurt Mlachnik and sophomore guard Glenn Martin were all around 6 points per game.
Mlachnik, Jelks and Welsch all made honorable-mention all-GMC for the season.
Central loses Mlachnik, Welsch and Jelks, along with Tyler Stricklen and Griffin Johnson but will return Blakely, Martin, Semb-Lovejoy, Fierst and others next season.
Coach Dave Mlachnik praised his seniors for being the heart of the team and looks forward to the continued development of the sophomore group.
West Allis Hale
Senior guard Ryan Haertel enjoyed a big year, averaging 19.5 points, 2.6 assists and 2.5 rebounds and connecting on 93 3-point field goals, hitting 39 percent from long range.
Those figures earned him a spot on the all-conference first team.
"He has been the best player at Hale since Rick Wagner," coach John Palesse said. "The defenses he faced were extremely challenging for him and he was still able to score at a consistent level."
Brandon Barr, a senior guard, was next with 9.0 points per game and added a team-high 4.2 assists per contest in receiving honorable-mention all-conference.
Senior forward Collin Basgall tallied 7.9 points per game, and senior forward Michael Johnson added 7.3 points and a team-leading 3.8 rebounds per outing.
Hale loses seniors Haertel, Basgall, Barr, Johnson, Michael Schmidt, Jordan Breznik and Joe Karpowicz.
"It is always tough to say goodbye to the seniors," Palesse said. "Our guys worked hard and stayed with it until the end. It was nice to have a two-game winning streak at the end to enjoy some success. We wish our seniors the best and thank them for all their hard work and dedication."