INDIANAPOLIS – We have all heard those not-so-quiet whispers in the preseason.
“(Team X) is loaded. They have to be the favorites in 4A.”
“(Team Y) got several transfers. Look for them to bring home a state championship.”
Most years, that hype ends in disappointment. A key player gets hurt. The locker room has too much drama. An off day in the playoffs leads to an early postseason exit.
But Blackhawk Christian did not falter. From the opening practice in the fall, everyone in northeast Indiana knew that the Braves were the favorite in 1A.
It had a stud post (Caleb Furst).
It had shooters (Zane Burke).
It had an experienced point guard (Michael Pulver).
It had quickness (Abe Hicks).
It had one of the more underrated seniors in the entire state (Frankie Davidson).
But a long, grueling schedule had to be navigated. Making sure players put the success of the team over individual success was paramount. Avoiding a letdown here or a key injury there was key.
The Braves did it admirably, resulting in a 60-43 domination of Barr-Reeve on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, earning Blackhawk Christian its first-ever state championship in program history.
Watching the Braves warm-up prior to Saturday’s contest, you would think they were preparing for a weekday game against Lakewood Park Christian. Cool, calm and collected, Blackhawk Christian did not get sucked in to the big stage of appearing in its first 1A state title game in 15 years. The relaxed but focused approach that has carried the Braves all season was on display again, with the team building a 25-point lead late in the third quarter before the Vikings made it look respectable.
The post-game celebration was emphatic, but not over-exuberant. Blackhawk Christian expected to be here. It expected to win a state championship. But it did not allow the end goal to consume its thinking. When rolling to double-digit wins in 20 of their 27 victories leading up to state, the focus was always on the game that came next, not visions of winning a championship.
Coach Marc Davidson was the leader in keeping the singular focus. He respected a game at 4A Homestead as much as a visit to 1A Hamilton. The end goal was always obvious, but never spoken about.
Time and again we have watched talent-laden northeast Indiana teams fail in the quest for a title. The pressure became too much. A skilled team from elsewhere in the state ended the journey.
But Blackhawk Christian delivered. It lived up to the high expectations.
The Braves are champions.
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