The Brown Deer boys basketball team was happy to turn the calendar page from December 2016 to January 2017 because that usually means coach Kelly Appleby's Falcons kick it up a notch in terms of intensity and performance.
And as if on cue last week, the Falcons broke a two-week hiatus with a series of impressive wins over Whitefish Bay, Greenfield and Cudahy.
"We never seem to do as well in December as we do from January on," Appleby said. "We seem to drag our legs early and speed them up late."
The Falcons used a strong second half to steamroll Bay, 78-58, in a Jan. 3 nonconference tilt and then rolled past Woodland Conference foes Greenfield (86-70) on Jan. 4 and Cudahy (79-56) on Jan. 6.
The trio of victories improved Brown Deer to 4-2 in Woodland play and 6-3 overall. They will be at South Milwaukee for a Woodland tilt at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, and then will visit Wisconsin Lutheran for a nonconference game at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14.
Appleby, whose team is the four-time Woodland Conference East Division champion, finds itself behind Whitnall in the league race.
That particular situation could have benefits, he said.
"We're looking forward to chasing because we've been the front-runners for so long," he said. "The same old motivators don't work as well anymore. This gives us some new ones."
The Falcons were certainly motivated from the Bay game when they took on Greenfield in a make-up game Jan. 4.
They bolted out to a 50-28 lead in the first half and never really looked back in cruising past the Hustling Hawks.
As usual, the Falcons' guard line of Jay Gentry (17 points), Damon Jackson (15) and Jalen Greenlee (24) led the way.
The threesome has been remarkably consistent all season, Appleby said.
"They all have their roles," he said. "Jalen is the shooter, Damon is the slasher and Jay is just the 'take over a game, tough cover guy.' They do a great job of playing off one another. Everyone is just figuring out their roles now. We're rotating well and keeping people fresh. We're a pressing team, so we really need to keep people's legs fresh."
Nine people scored this game for Brown Deer as Bryce Graf added 10. Four players hit a total of nine 3-pointers.
Against Cudahy, the Falcons broke out to an early 15-point lead only to have the Packers hit three straight 3-pointers to cut the lead to six. It was down to 41-36 at the half before the Falcons stiffened the defense and pulled away.
Jackson led the way with 22, while Gentry had 20, Greenlee 13 and post Johny Saengphonphakdy 10.
Appleby was very pleased with the defensive effort, which featured Brown Deer pulling out of the press for a time because Cudahy was shooting 3s over the top of it.
He was also pleased the Falcons were able to handle a difficult, fatiguing schedule.
"Three games in four days," he said. "That's a busy week."