As many teams this time of year are preparing to dive into their conference schedules with earnest, Blackhawk Christian stands ready to rise and strike down those squads preoccupied with league titles.
Competing as an independent, the Braves have already put scares into North Side and New Haven this season, both of whom are expected to compete for conference championships.
Some teams would feel slighted in not having any hardware to compete for in the regular season, but not these Braves.
“It really doesn't bother me,” junior forward Riley Reimschisel said.
Under new head coach Marc Davidson, who came over from Lakewood Park, Blackhawk Christian (2-2) is playing a more up-tempo style with plenty of shooters and size in the middle to bang down low.
The combination has been problematic for opponents used to the Braves' teams of the past that played more in the half-court style. Blackhawk Christian hung with North Side for the majority of the game earlier this month before falling by 10.
“(Our players were) used to probably a little bit more structure,” Davidson said. “We have a certain degree of structure … our goal each possession is to take a quality shot. We don't run the floor just to chuck anything up.”
Prior to the game, Redskins coach Shabaz Khaliq warned his team not to overlook Blackhawk Christian. The Braves' play reinforced that.
“They are a very unselfish group that plays hard, shares the ball and can really shoot the three,” Khaliq said. “I think they can become a serious contender in Class 1A for a state title this year and next.”
The praise may be high from opponents, but Davidson just hopes to continue to build a program that won seven sectionals in eight years in the 2000s.
The program has not eclipsed eight victories in a season in any of the last three years.
The Braves are loaded with talented juniors. In addition to Reimschisel, Joey Morlan is also a three-year starter as a junior while Preston Rippe and Wesley Davidson are also impressive underclassmen.
One of the benefits of not being tied down to a conference is the flexibility with scheduling. Blackhawk Christian has six SAC opponents on the schedule and will travel to Marion on Feb. 7.
“Conference play is fun in its own right,” Davidson said. “But I see (non-conference play) as a positive. Every game matters where we build and get better to reach a point where are peaking when sectionals come around in March.”
The potential is there for the Braves to succeed this year and beyond, whether that happens or not will come down to how the team continues to gel in the new offense.
And do not discount the chances of an upset or two of a more well-known program.
“My dad used to say, 'Potential plus 50 cents will get you a can of coke,'” Davidson said. “At some point that potential has to transfer into results.”
It would seem that the Braves are on track to fulfill that potential, with or without a conference.