It is weird to think about, but sometimes when you are trying to watch so many different teams and players, the really good ones don’t get enough attention. Call it the ‘just too good’ coverage curse.
Homestead girls saw the brunt of that in print and online media coverage during their historic runs in recent seasons. This year, I am afraid, it is Blackhawk Christian that isn’t getting enough focus. Sure, you could put Homestead boys there too, but its the Braves that really made me think about what I wanted to watch this weekend. Saturday night’s game against Lakewood Park was never going to be super close and the exit of Caedmon Bontrager from the Panther program recently only spread the gap.
But Blackhawk Christian deserved some attention, you. just can’t look past them because they are usually so dominant. So they are getting attention with their 107-26 win over Lakewood Park on Saturday night, the third time the Braves have reached the century mark this season.
“I told the boys I’ve been on both sides of games like that many times. There is kind of an etiquette on how you go about a game like that,” Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson said. “You sub liberally and I just reminded them you don’t try any kind of fancy plays you don’t do in a normal game.”
From tip to closing buzzer, it was all Blackhawk Christian. The tipoff went straight from Caleb Furst’s hand to Zane Burke for an easy bucket. Full court pressure turned into an easy Furst basket and then another Lakewood Park turnover on a double dribble finished with more points for the Braves. Blackhawk Christian, from the get go, employed the type of pressure that is always hard to overcome in that small home Braves gym where everything seems so much more confined.
It was 16-0 before Lakewood Park could ever get a breath and that was only because of a timeout. Carter Harman would end the scoring drought with a three pointer to get it to 16-3 and that was as close as it got for the rest of the game. Callan Wood pushed it back to a 16 point game with his third three pointer on his third attempt. Wood hit all of his first five three point shots and had 17 points after the first quarter. Wood’s shooting underlined one of the great things about the Braves nightly: they put on the pressure and make other teams play to their level. Very few have had the ability to rise up to that point, but for Blackhawk to have a chance to repeat as state champions, they have to come out with a consistent fight no matter who the opponent is.
That is why they led 31-12 after the first quarter against Lakewood Park. Sure, their lineup is better and plays at a high level but as one of the best coaches this area has seen in the past decade, Davidson needs to make sure they stay at that high level. Taking breathers with their main lineup, as they did to start the second quarter is fine, but if you don’t come out the same way against every opponent you risk getting stagnant and/or content.
And if there is anything further from the Blackhawk Christian identity than content, I don’t know what it is.
“That was part of our pregame devotion,” Davidson said, paraphrasing the Bible verse Colossians 3:23. “We talked about the fact that for us, as followers of Christ, whatever you do, you do it heartedly unto the Lord and not for man. We talk about why do we do things when you are playing for the glory of God; that changes everything. We talk to our guys a lot about the type of effort we play with every time regardless of who the opponent is or if it is practice or a game. We want to maintain that high standard of excellence because of why we do it.”
Great teams don’t accept anything but high quality effort. The Braves got that from their entire lineup, spots 1-9 that were used in the first half and then again late. Davidson has grown to not expect less from his group than their best and it has the Braves leading the state in scoring while being second in the state in average margin of victory, both regardless of class. By going deeper into his lineup, especially early in games, Davidson is able to accomplish a number of things.
First, he is getting them quality reps because down the stretch of the season you never know what kind of foul trouble could pop up and, lets be honest, COVID contact tracing quarantine can always rear its ugly head. You don’t want to have need their depth to come into play outside of your own control, but it is nice to have.
Second, it gives your starters the rest to avoid exhaustion and energy. You want your group to be as healthy as possible when the postseason comes, especially as a team like Blackhawk Christian that doesn’t play for a conference title.
The balance of substitutions on Saturday allowed for Davidson to get the best of both worlds. His starting group was dynamite, led by Wood’s shooting where he ended up knocking down six threes for his second 20 point outing this week and Furst added 13 including three emphatic third quarter slams. But there was also rest, relaxation and the chance for the likes of Gage Sefton, Andrew McIntosh, Lewis Jones, Josh Furst and Luke Moorman to get quality minutes and reps that make Blackhawk Christian more dangerous in the closing months of this season.
“We are really comfortable with our guys on the bench; we are a much deeper team probably than people realize. Those guys are all ready at a moments notice and we are comfortable going with anyone on our bench and confident they are going to be able to come in and make plays,” Davidson said.
When looking down his lineup and subs, Davidson points to senior Andrew McIntosh as continuing to be a great example of what the Braves are about in and out of the starting lineup. McIntosh came off the bench on Saturday to score nine points as one of 11 different Braves scorers.
“He plays with a joy that is just contagious. He will be in a middle of game with a smile from ear to ear because he is so excited. He has that same kind of energy while he’s on the bench or he’s on the floor,” Davidson said. “When you have guys like that – Andrew brings that team first attitude – it just kind of permeates through your group.”
The Braves reached the century mark on a Josh Furst basket that he followed up with a steal and a dunk to push the Braves quickly from 99 to 103 points. The 26 points for Lakewood Park is the fewest that Blackhawk Christian has allowed to an opponent this season and the 81 point margin is their biggest win of the season.
In the end, Saturday may not have been much of a contest as Davidson beat his former coaching home. But I am glad that I took it in and gave the Braves some needed and deserved attention. Blackhawk Christian is very dangerous and in the confines of their home gym, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a team so comfortable game in and game out.
The win closed out a two win, three day stretch after also beating Bowman Academy on Thursday. Furst and Wood each scored 20 points in that win, where Furst also hauled in his 1,000th career rebound.
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