Wauwatosa East girls basketball coach Rob Hamill had a good feeling about this season's Red Raiders team. And the veteran coach was correct.
The East girls basketball team had an outstanding season, and the awards and honors announced at the end-of-the-end banquet bore that out.
The following players earned team awards for the 2015-16 season.
First off, seniors Bailey Berlin and Maya Walls shared the Red Raiders' MVP award.
Freshman Brooklyn Blackburn earned the Most Improved Award, and the Coaches Award went to senior Sammy Jensen.
Jensen and Walls were honored for being captains.
Tosa East had two players — Berlin and Walls — earn Greater Metro Conference high honorable honors.
Blackburn, the first freshman Hamill ever had on the varsity to begin the season, earned honorable mention honors, and Jensen earned a GMC Scholar-Athlete award.
Hamill will lose some talented seniors to graduation — six to be exact — in Berlin, Walls, Jensen, Tori Logan, Chyna Sincere and Angie Mitten.
Individual honors are nice, but there was also plenty of team recognition.
Tosa East finished 17-8 overall and took fifth in the GMC with a 7-7 record. The Red Raiders were 4-4 through Dec. 18 and then went on a season-high seven-game winning streak. They ended the year with a 6-0 run before losing to Pius XI in the sectional semifinal.
It is no surprise that the Now prep website ranked East as 14th in the suburban area. The Red Raiders also earned the No. 2 sectional seeding, won the regional championship and received the Journal-Sentinel Team of the Week honor.
'We started the year picked to finish a distant last in the Greater Metro Conference,' Hamill said. 'I have long believed we have been doing more things right than wrong, but it had been a very long road to translate that into wins, though in the past two of three seasons, we have had a winning overall record.'
What was different this year? As is most often the case, it was a combination of things in no particular order according to Hamill.
1. The maturation of the seniors
'One year made a big difference in some of their mental approach to the season,' Hamill said. 'We also improved in clutch situations and, more often than not, stayed within what worked for us and executed it.'
2. The development of young players who were ready to contribute right away
'Primarily I am thinking of Brooklyn Blackburn and Liz Bueckers,' Hamill said. 'This group of seniors is also the initial group of kids that began when we re-established our club program however many years ago that was.
'Even in our sectional game against Pius, Alana Perkins, who had a big impact for them against us, came up through our youth program This is a result of the tireless efforts of Tom Oleniczak, who not only coaches our JV squad but also runs our youth club program. He and the coaches working with our kids are a big part in the results we saw this year.'
3. The engagement of the assistant coaches this year
'Last year we really has some significant chemistry issues,' Hamill said. 'This year, through the efforts of assistant coach Laura Krumenauer, we did much more team-building types of things off the court, which really had an impact.
'Further, the experience, engagement and involvement of (former head coach/athletic director) Linda Vitrano was invaluable. She is a great coach, always has been. A good deal of it is the level of engagement at all times with the squad, especially in practice.
'Not everyone may recall, but her and I began coaching together back in the 1994-95 season. I strongly believed she would have a significant impact. I can't overstate how important she was not only as a coach but a role model for the girls too.'
Solid reasons for a fine season.
'To me these are the major reasons we may have turned a corner this season,' Hamill said. 'They were all of equal importance. The last couple of weeks, we also pulled four JV players up to practice with varsity who I think fit right in and have the chance to continue an upward trajectory for Tosa East girls basketball.'