Don’t let the title of this column – which I wrote before the actual story – fool you. The Blackhawk Christian Braves, freshly minted a Class 2A team, have a lot of fun with how they play basketball and they try very hard in the entertaining way they do business.
But a season removed and several players down from a state title, the Braves weren’t looking to be interesting in how they handled business Tuesday night in their season opener. Instead, they just did business the Braves way; an interesting case study for me and many others in a program rebuilding.
The immediate result: a 105-59 win over North Side in the once proud By Hey Arena.
In the beginning, there were some growing pains, as is to be expected of a team that returns three players with significant varsity experience. The Braves also only went three deep on their bench in significant minutes due to illness from sophomore Luke Lagrange. Early on, North Side was able to keep pace at 20-20; but that didn’t last too terribly long.
“We wanted to get off to a good start because we knew that the more you let them hang around, they were going to start believe a little bit,” Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson said. “But I was really proud of how we started and I thought especially the second half we moved the ball, we made extra passes, we passed up good shots for great shots.”
The Braves drew away from North Side by being cerebral. Once their shots started falling more consistently and Caleb Furst took over inside, it was over. Furst spent a lot of the first quarter making moves at the rim only to find himself swarmed by what looked like the entire Legend team helping out their own Jacob Lambert in the post. But Furst showed off an even new level of maturity in taking his time to make passes or bully through contact to earn multiple and-one opportunities.
Really all North Side could do once Furst got rolling was send him to the line. That only takes you so far when the big man hits 9-of-10 from the line.
“He’s a nice big target in there, so it is easy to get the ball to him and I thought his decision making was good,” Davidson said. “He trusts his teammates and he has always been a willing passer and finding that balance, when to attack or when to pass the basketball when there are two guys on him, I think he is getting better at reading that stuff.”
There were also those members of the North Side band yelling overrated at Furst throughout the game. Misguided saxophonists and clarinetists beware: you won’t get under Furst’s skin. He finished the night with 29 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and one big slam in the fourth that was a final exclamation point on a night of blue collar work.
“It was great to take what we’ve been practicing all fall and into this winter and really put it into a purpose out on the floor,” Furst said. “It is a very long race. You just have to take it one game at a time, one quarter at a time in these games.”
But Furst wasn’t the only one that just went about his business when they could have been brash. Zane Burke was aggressive and assertive all game long, but still seemed to be quiet about his point total; he led all scorers with 33 points. I, for one, didn’t think that Burke was the leading scorer or had 33 points. It slides him perfectly into a role that Frankie Davidson occupied last season. Burke is going to have very good nights that you don’t fully appreciate until you look back at the stat sheet; nights you could have swore that Furst put the ball in the bucket the most but didn’t actually because Burke is and is going to be a unique blend of very quiet and very loud in how he handles business. In addition to his 33 points, Burke added eight rebounds and eight assists.
If that isn’t an interesting quality from a guy who literally never left the floor until the junior varsity came in, I don’t know what is.
But when you think about guys who might try to be interesting to spectators, you think about the guys who are getting their first significant varsity floor time. No such luck there either if that is what you want. Jake Boyer, Andrew McIntosh and Callan Wood were the three guys that joined the short rotation and you’d think they had been there for years. But in all fairness, they have. Boyer, a sophomore, and the other two as juniors have been through the process. If you think sitting at the end of the bench or in warm ups during a state title run didn’t prepare this trio, you’d be wrong about that too.
The fact that those three got comfortable in their assignments so quickly made it easier for the entire team and coaching staff to adjust too.
“I think Callan Wood and Andrew McIntosh are two of the most hard nosed player we’ve ever had. They are willing to do anything to win, to help the team so I thought those guys brought great energy,” Davidson said.
Wood, especially, caught my attention with his play in Blackhawk’s 1-3-1 zone; which just happens to be my favorite zone. With Furst patrolling the top of the zone with his massive frame, the Legends had really no choice but to rotate the ball into the corners. That often made Wood the most interesting guy on the court as he zipped from corner to corner as the bottom, baseline guy in the zone. His control, speed and footwork were highlights of the defensive pressure that certainly shifted the tide away from North Side.
Wood also finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Marcus Davidson chipped in 12 points as the fourth Brave in double figures when they passed the century mark scoring wise.
This is an early game. It probably holds no bearing for either team in the long run. But Blackhawk Christian played it with the maturity, focus and energy of another big postseason game. That is pretty interesting to me at least.
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