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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, March 11, 2018 1:00 am

Boys basketball regionals

Braves continue torrid tourney

No. 1 Blackhawk wins 1st regional title since 2005

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

CULVER – After Blackhawk Christian beat its first four Class A state tournament opponents by an average of 47.5 points, a tougher test seemed to be in store for the No. 1 Braves in Saturday's regional title game against No. 5 Gary 21st Century.

Instead, the Cougars were almost as overmatched as every other recent Blackhawk Christian opponent as freshman Caleb Furst scored 32 points, and the Braves cruised to their first regional title since 2005, winning 100-62 at Culver.

Blackhawk (26-2) will face No. 3 Southwood (24-3) in the semistate next Saturday at either Huntington North or Lafayette Jeff.

“You know me, I always think there's room for improvement,” said coach Marc Davidson, whose son, Frankie, had 18 points in the win. “Defensively, we always gotta get better. I didn't think we were great at guarding the dribble tonight. By and large, I thought we were pretty good defensively, but we talked to these guys, we want to be great at little things. So we'll continue to try to master those details.”

The game-deciding run came early. The Braves ripped off 16 straight points near the end of the first quarter, finishing the period ahead 25-7. The 6-foot-9 Furst scored 10 points in that opening quarter, repeatedly finishing down low against the smaller Cougars (22-7).

The freshman said he wasn't sure if 32 points was his career-high.

“I don't really keep track of that,” he said. “All we care about's the win and that's what we got tonight, so we're happy.”

One of the keys to Blackhawk's early success was breaking the Cougars' full-court press. Gary 21st Century ran an aggressive, trapping defense for most of the night but wasn't able to come away with many turnovers.

Credit for that paucity of giveaways goes in large part to the Braves' senior point guard Jalan Mull, who was able to dribble his way out of pressure on nearly every possession and finished with 11 points.

“We said tonight, we may not call one play tonight, we may just make plays,” Marc Davidson said. “Jalan Mull's a playmaker. So we just put him into space and said, 'make a play.' He did a great job of that.”

The title game was the Braves' 12th victory in a row. None of those victories has been closer than 15 points, and Blackhawk's narrowest margin of victory in its five state tournament games is 34 points.

With the championship essentially decided, the second half of the game turned into a parade of fouls.

There were 14 whistles in the first four minutes of the third quarter as the teams combined to shoot more than 75 free throws. Blackhawk 38 of 49, while Furst hit a school-record 16 of 16 from the line.

The Braves advanced to the final with a 79-45 victory over Covenant Christian (23-3) in the afternoon semifinals. The Knights won their first sectional title in school history last week, but couldn't overcome Blackhawk's size. Frankie Davidson scored a game-high 25 points in the win, including 17 in the first quarter.

“You get 6-8 or 6-9 in foul trouble and they'll just bring 6-11 in,” Knights coach John Heerema said of the Braves' height. “It just keeps coming. ... (They're a) great team. They're No. 1 for a reason.”

dsinn@jg.net