Blackhawk Christian returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse this weekend where it will take on Parke Heritage for the Class 2A state championship. The game is set to tip off at 1:30 p.m.
Outside the Huddle takes a closer look at the battle between the Braves and the Wolves, who are in just their third year of existence as a school.
ZERO PRACTICE TIME
As was the case in the Class 3A breakdown in which we talked about the lack of experience for Leo in the state finals against a squad returning in Silver Creek, this game has the same story.
It is an eye-opening experience to step onto an NBA court under those bright lights. It can wow almost anyone, even if you have been there before. This game sees the Braves back after winning the Class A title in 2019 and Parke Heritage in their first trip ever.
Usually, that playing field can be evened by the simple fact that the teams get a practice in on the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse sometime during the week. This year though, there will be no practice in Indianapolis to prepare for this game. Replicating the feeling of this arena on your own home court is impossible because of the size and the shooting background. The first time either of these squads will step onto this floor is to warm up after the Class 2A game has finished. How big of a deal this is depends on how big you let it be as a team.
A MISMATCH…ON PAPER
Parke Heritage knows it is the decided underdog in this one. In fact, the theater in the town of Rockville showed the movie “Hoosiers” for the team and the fans on Thursday evening.
The Wolves will have to deal with significant issues in terms of size (no regular is taller than 6-foot-4), depth (86 percent of its scoring is in the starting lineup) and quickness.
For Parke Heritage to have a shot, it must slow the game down. It cannot get into a track meet with the Braves, because that is a battle it will lose and lose badly.
The Braves have the decided advantage in this matchup, but does that show in their play? Are they complacent? Chances are highly unlikely that happens.
AN EXCLAMATION POINT FOR MR. BASKETBALL?
Caleb Furst has been as advertised this season – entering the weekend averaging 21.5 points and 14.3 rebounds per contest. He is equal parts offensive mismatch, defensive game changer and unquestioned leader of the Braves.
With many expecting the Purdue signee to win the Indiana Mr. Basketball award, there would be no place better than Bankers Life Fieldhouse to cement his legacy in the lore of basketball in the state and in northeast Indiana.
With Parke Heritage looking outmatched size-wise, look for Furst to have a huge game on Saturday afternoon.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CONNER DAVIS, SENIOR, PARKE HERITAGE
Listed at 6-4, Davis is the tallest regular in the Wolves lineup. He is also second on the team in points per game (14.6) and is first in rebounds (8.0).
Davis is going to be THE guy that gets the initial assignment on Furst. While there will be help nearby, particularly if Parke Heritage goes zone (it better), it will Davis’ length and height that will be relied upon to deny the entry passes and to body up Furst. There is also no one on the roster who plays harder than Davis.
Davis does not need to win the majority of the battles with Furst, he just needs to break even and give the Wolves a shot.
ZANE BURKE, SENIOR, BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
Burke is often the forgotten star behind Furst, but the senior is a dominant player in his own right. The wing is an exceptional shooter from inside and out and is underrated as a rebounder.
What Burke gives Blackhawk Christian is that deadly outside threat that makes teams pay when they collapse on Furst. The Braves have several shooters who can knock down the three, but Burke is the most dangerous.
CHRISTIAN JOHNSON, SOPHOMORE, PARKE HERITAGE
While just a 10th grader, Johnson sure doesn’t look that part. His physique would have most label him an upperclassman, as he is built and strong around his 6-foot frame.
Johnson is the team’s leading scorer at 16.8 points per game and is also second in rebounds at 6.8 per contest. He plays above his height and doesn’t shy from contact or physicality. The Wolves will need a huge game from Johnson.
CALEB FURST, SENIOR, BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
I mean, you can’t not include him here. There is no player on Parke Heritage who can match up with him. Some would say there are no TWO players that can handle his skill set.
Blackhawk Christian has done a tremendous job establishing Furst early in games. Against Blackford in the semistate, the Braves’ first two possessions saw Furst fouled at the bucket, leading to two free throws, and a dunk. At that point, it was obvious (to us) that Blackford had no chance.
Furst is big, strong, physical and has the finesse and skill to do what he wants unchecked around the hoop, considering Parke Heritage lacks the size to slow him down once he gets the ball in the post.
KEY TO VICTORY – BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
PLAY ITS GAME
In an interview on Thursday, Coach Marc Davidson stressed that the Braves will be focused as much on what they can do as they will be on what Parke Heritage can do. The mismatches are significant, Blackhawk Christian just needs to go out, execute its game and win a second state championship in three years.
It sounds simple, but Blackhawk Christian wins if it plays its game.
KEY TO VICTORY – PARKE HERITAGE
SLOW IT DOWN
The Wolves cannot afford to let this game be played at an up-tempo pace. If the scoring reaches into the 60s and beyond, Parke Heritage, which averages just 59 points per game, cannot keep up offensively with Blackhawk Christian.
Coach Rich Schelsky knows his team will need to be deliberate with the basketball and limit the touches of the Braves’ offense. If Burke, Davidson and company are able to get out in transition and run, it could spell disaster.
This appears to be a significant mismatch. Blackhawk Christian is too strong, too quick and too talented for Parke Heritage.
Really, the only hope for Parke Heritage is if it keeps the game low scoring. Churubusco was able to give the Braves some trouble by playing aggressive defense that really challenged the Braves offensively. Can the Wolves do the same?
Parke Heritage knows it is the underdog, but it is heading into Saturday believing it can compete.
Will Blackhawk Christian allow that to happen? Or will they come out sharp from the tip and bury their opponent?
BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN 73, PARKE HERITAGE 57