West Allis — When a new coach takes over a veteran group, one of two scenarios typically happens.
The experience overcomes any hiccups the coaching transition may cause, or the whole darn thing implodes in everyone's face.
For the West Allis Central girls basketball team, so far, so good.
With first-year coach Dave Mlachnik at the helm, the Bulldogs (5-0) began this week as one of just three girls teams in the NOW coverage area without a loss, joining Germantown (8-0) and New Berlin Eisenhower (7-0).
"I thought we were going to have a good season this year because we had a lot of girls coming back," said senior center Lauren Hibbard, a Loyola of Chicago recruit. "I didn't think it would be this good, though, because I thought it would be hard switching coaches and learning all the new plays and having to learn his style of coaching. But it hasn't been hard at all."
Experience as assistant pays off
Mlachnik, who is in his third year as a special education teacher at West Allis Central, spent seven years as an assistant coach with the boys programs at Milwaukee Vincent and Muskego. He took over for Steve Hluchnik, who took a job with Oak Creek after 11 seasons with Central.
"It's been everything that I've expected," Mlachnik said. "I've learned from some great people - (former Vincent coach) Tom Diener, (former Muskego coach) Jeff Adams and my brother Duane (former Muskego boys and girls coach). It's awesome having your own team and putting in your own ideas and being in charge. That's the exciting thing about it."
The former St. Thomas More star who played at Rice University on a scholarship has had a philosophical switch of his own since his playing days, when he was know for his scoring exploits. The Bulldogs have allowed just 38.8 points per game.
"He believes strongly in defense," Hibbard said. "Hluchnik had tons of offensive plays and worked hard on offense. Mlachnik believes way more in defense than Hluchnik did. The majority of our practices are spent working on defense."
Bulldogs pack scoring punch, too
The Bulldogs can fill it up as well, however. With 5-foot-10-inch forward Janie Myles averaging a team-high 15 points per game, Hibbard, a 6-2 center, adding 12.8 and 5-11 sophomore guard Mehryn Kraker chipping in 8.8, the Bulldogs' three-headed monster has made it difficult for opposing teams to defend Central.
"You have to have size, and we do," Mlachnik said. "Hibbard is our senior leader. Janie Myles can be an outstanding player if she continues to work. Mehryn is stepping up and taking leadership of the perimeter and doing great things for us.
"And everybody else understands their roles: defensive players, shooters on the floor, girls that take care of the basketball."
Mlachnik credited Hluchnik for making the team he inherited fundamentally sound, so little time needs to be wasted on simple basketball concepts. That has given the Bulldogs more time to concentrate on Mlachnik's plays and philosophies.
Quick start encourages team
The Bulldogs' hot start has them thinking about dethroning two-time defending Greater Metro Conference champion Brookfield Central. The teams meet Jan. 15, and one week later, the Bulldogs play another conference contender, Divine Savior Holy Angels.
"We're definitely thinking about (a conference title) now," Hibbard said. "I don't know if we did at the beginning of the year."
Said Mlachnik: "Those two teams have been very successful. In order to get there, we have a lot of work to do, but it is one of our goals. Like I tell the girls, we can't look at any dates. That's for me to think about. The girls need to focus on each day."
SCORE: West Allis Central 47, Brookfield East 43
DATE: Dec. 15
LOWDOWN: Central's Janie Myles scored 17 points to lead all players as the Bulldogs held on for a four-point win to improve to 5-0, as of Monday. Mehryn Kraker chipped in 12 points, and Lauren Hibbard added nine for Central, which entered the holiday season at 3-0 in the Greater Metro Conference.
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