BOURBON — After a morning game that presented a bigger challenge than Blackhawk Christian was accustomed to against Class 1A competition, the goal for Saturday night was clear: leave no doubt.
The Braves jumped up early and never let their foot off the gas in a 77-39 win over Argos is the Regional final at Triton High School. It will return Blackhawk Christian to the semistate round next Saturday. The Braves will play Lafayette Central Catholic at Elkhart Central’s North Side Gym at 4 p.m. eastern.
But this Saturday, it was point proving time. Sophomore Caleb Furst was the first, but certainly not the last Brave to prove a point as he scored the first six points of the contest. Fellow sophomore Zane Burke added the Braves’ fourth basket and right out of the gate to give the Braves an 8-0 lead.
“As a player, it is always great to see your first few shots go in,” said Furst, whose demeanor and confidence visibly rose after his first three baskets. “We try to stay in the moment.”
Argos fought back valiantly early in the first quarter, but their man to man defense on Blackhawk Christian, and especially Furst, continued to fail them at the basket.
The Braves led 22-8 after one; Furst had eight points himself.
“Whenever you can start a game quick, you can bury a team right away,” Burke said. “Coach told us before the game, if we speed Argos up, we would be able to run them.”
“This morning was a game where we wanted to be in gaps and slow them down offensively. Tonight, we wanted to jump into passing lanes and deny and try to speed them up,” Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson said. “We have a team that is smart enough to guard both ways. Getting the lead early was big. The longer you let a team like that hang around, they more they are going to continue to gain confidence.”
Blackhawk Christian continued to extend the lead in the second quarter as Frankie Davidson got more involved. The midrange scoring attempts from both Frankie and brother Marcus extended out the defense of Argos, who started to try and box in and double team Furst. Blackhawk showed great poise and discipline in moving the ball around the perimeter with the brothers, Burke, Abe Hicks and Michael Pulver.
Offensively, Argos was able to get some good open looks from long range in the second quarter, the only quarter they were able to compete offensively with the Braves. Owen Nifong ended the half three of four from three point range, but the Dragons certainly were not able to break into the Blackhawk Christian lead.
“Coach made the word of the day disrupt,” Furst said. “We really wanted to disrupt their offense and get us going quick.”
The second half for Blackhawk Christian was all about keeping that proverbial foot on the gas and preventing Argos from making the kinds of runs that Gary 21st Century was able to make late in the morning game against the Braves. For coach Marc Davidson and the Braves, confidence certainly rose as they were able to keep Argos from making any kind of impact in the first three minute window of the second half, something the Braves coach has preached all season.
The defensive pressure of the Braves also continued well into the second half. In the full court, they hounded Argos inbounders and Pulver was his usual self, all over the court diving for loose balls and getting into passing lanes. The trapping pressure of Pulver, Burke and Trinity Clark throughout the game made it difficult for Argos to ever find a true comfort zone. A team that relies on success in their half court sets, that comfort zone was a critical point for the Dragons to obtain.
“They are really good at running their stuff. Our mantra was that we wanted to make plays instead of running plays. They are really good at running plays so we wanted to try to force them to have to make plays” Marc Davidson said.
In the end, the smothering effect of Blackhawk Christian on both sides of the ball won out. Their core seven celebrated on the sidelines as their bench found some scoring success. More important that the celebration, which was brief compared to many others in Blackhawk Christian’s situation, was the knowledge that they would get another shot at the semistate level after falling to Southwood last season.
“We have a great fan support. I know they enjoy us and we need to go back and win it this year,” Burke said.
Blackhawk Christian outscored Argos 26-13 in the third quarter and 18-8 in the fourth. The Braves never trailed in the contest and outrebounded Argos 38-19.
Furst finished with a game high 25 points of 11 of 14 shooting, adding 10 rebounds. His interior presence helped Blackhawk Christian score more points in the paint (40) than Argos scored in the game (39). Frankie Davidson added 14 points for the Braves while Pulver scored nine points and had five rebounds and five assists. Argos was led by Nifong’s 16 points.
“We have great kids and kids that work hard and play together,” Marc Davidson said. “It is really fun when you coach a group like that. We’ve talked all year about being humble and hungry and I feel like that is kind of the pulse of our team right now.”