ELKHART — If last week’s Blackhawk Christian point of emphasis was to leave no doubt, Saturday afternoon’s was clearly to leave no excuses. The Braves exorcized their semistate demons of a year ago in a 74-51 domination of Lafayette Central Catholic in the Class 1A north semistate.
“I just love our group. We have a really unique group that is unified and we challenged them from day one,” Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson said. “They are humble, they don’t act like they are better than anybody and they are a very hungry group.”
From the opening tip, Blackhawk Christian was all business. Senior Frankie Davidson, who was ill but still played in 2018’s semistate loss, took his first touch on the ball baseline for a slam dunk attempt. While Davidson got fouled on that trip to the basket, it set an electric tempo for a Braves team that was able to get to the basket at will throughout the first half.
“We just wanted to send a message and show them what we got,” Frankie Davidson said.
“We knew they had no answer for us at the rim so offensively we wanted to get it to the rim. There is always that balance where some guys had open jump shots early and we have great shooters. We know that number 3 (Caleb Furst) and number 32 (Frankie) at the rim are pretty good options,” Marc Davidson added.
It wouldn’t be until the 5:13 mark of the first quarter that Lafayette Central Catholic would be able to make a mark on the scoreboard. By that time, the Braves had built up an 11-0 lead that would never be blemished.
The Braves made their way up to the double digit lead on Davidson’s free throws, an Abe Hicks lay in, a Zane Burke three pointer, a pair of Caleb Furst free throws and finally a Davidson pull up at the free throw line off a nice feed from Burke.
The Knights looked for momentum out of that 11-0 start by taking two straight charges at the rim following David Schwartz’s opening basket of their offense. On two straight possessions, Lafayette Central Catholic’s defense was able to take charges, but neither time were they able to turn the stop into points. Meanwhile Michael Pulver got Blackhawk Christian back into their offensive swing with the first of his two first half and-one plays to give Blackhawk their 14-2 lead.
The rest of the first half was punctuated by Blackhawk Christian’s defense creating offense in transition, particularly on four separate Davidson blocks as Knight leading scorer Carson Barrett failed to find any space down low.
“I really like how our guys responded and I felt that second quarter when Caleb was on the bench and we were able to extend the lead, that was really big,” Marc Davidson said.
Blackhawk Christian used that momentum to get to the basket at will and extend their lead to 41-15 with three minutes left despite Furst sitting out the entire second quarter for rest. A more energetic than usual Pulver put in his second and-one with 2:47 left and Blackhawk led 46-21 at the halftime break.
“I loved his aggression. He is so quick and capable of getting to the next level. I thought his decision making was really good and he recognized when there was an opportunity there and he finished a bunch of layups at the rim,” Marc Davidson said.
Pulver led the Braves in scoring in the first half with all 13 of his points.
“I was just driving,” Pulver said simply of his first half success. “They didn’t come after me so I just kept on going.”
The third quarter was likely the most even part of the game with the Braves making a few mental mistakes that allowed for the Knights to steal some momentum on the offensive end. But when Lafayette Central Catholic’s shots stopped falling, the Davidson brothers — Frankie and Marcus — started to work the baseline, driving to the basket and getting seemingly easy trips to the foul line.
The quarter was punctuated by Burke chasing down a long rebound of a Marcus Davidson miss, turning around in mid air and heaving the ball 22 feet to the basket to beat the buzzer with a three pointer and extend the Braves’ lead to 31, its largest to that point.
The Knights found success early in the fourth shooting the ball, getting the deficit down to 24 before Burke struck back with a three of his own at the midway point. The teams traded baskets down the stretch of the game before Frankie Davidson punctuated the win with 2:57 left on a two handed dunk off a shovel pass from Pulver that brought the Braves fans to their feet and the bench into the game.
“I am just so happy and grateful that we have this team that plays so hard and plays together. That is really what helped us win this,” Pulver said. “It is amazing. We have been striving for this for four years. This year we just played as hard as we could and we got it done.”
Frankie Davidson led Blackawk Christian with 17 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. He was joined in double figure scoring by Burke’s 15, Marcus Davidson’s 15 and Pulver with 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Furst ended with eight points and 11 rebounds for the Braves.
The Braves will now play Barr-Reeve for the Class 1A state title next Saturday morning 10:30 a.m., at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It is the second ever state finals appearance for Blackhawk Christian following a 2004 loss to Waldron in the Class 1A final.