PREP HOOPS NOTEBOOK: Blackhawk Christian continues to be driven by details

Blackhawk Christian won their fourth Sectional title in five years on Saturday with a win over Lakewood Park. (Courtesy photo)

In a sectional that did not boast many teams in the way of a successful record, there may have been a school of thought that said Blackhawk Christian may lose focus from its 21-2 regular season. The Braves showed that to be quite wrong as they plowed through the sectional field at Hamilton last week.

“We’ve been talking to the guys a lot about details and challenging them to be great at the little things,” Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson said. “We will just continue to talk about the details, specifically on the defensive end is where talked about getting dialed in at.”

Blackhawk gave up just 105 points in its three sectional wins. It scored 102 of its 261 sectional points just in Friday’s semifinal win over Lakeland Christian. The Braves will put their 52 point per game win average in the postseason to the test at Saturday’s Culver Regional, where every team has a winning record and the Braves will start with 22-3 Covenant Christian.

The Knights, who play out of Demotte near the Illinois border, are led by 6-foot-6 senior Chris Beezold and his 16.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Another 6-6 senior, Luke Zylstra, will see action as the Knights to figure out how to guard a trio of near-seven footers, a challenge failed by many teams this year.

While Covenant Christian holds a 23-2 record, it hss ventured outside of Class 1A just twice this year, winning its first two games of the season against 2A’s Hebron and North Newton. Blackhawk Christian has played three of its 10 Class 1A contested games in the postseason, all victories. The Braves went 5-2 against Class 4A, 6-0 against 3A and 3-0 against 2A opponents. The Braves went 7-2 against Summit Athletic Conference foes.

“We always said we will play anyone, anywhere, anytime,” Davidson said. “It helps us and it also helps expose us at times for things we need to get better at. That is the great thing about Fort Wayne and the talent in the city.”

The win last Saturday gave the Braves their fourth sectional title in Davidson’s five years at the helm of the program.

Add another to the trophy case for Homestead

It has become a bit of a tradition for Homestead boys basketball: win sectional titles. This year’s Spartans squad avenged their season opening loss to Huntington North on Saturday night to claim their fifth straight sectional title and 15th straight sectional win dating back to 2014, the most of still-active Class 4A teams.

“Your kids have to believe, have to continue to play hard and have to be poised. I’m happy for our kids that we were able to win this sectional from where were to start at 4-5. It says a lot about our kids and the toughness they have,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said.

That 15th straight sectional win keeps them ahead of New Albany, who has won 13 straight sectional games and Carmel and Bloomington South, who both sit at 11. Homestead’s last sectional loss came on March 2, 2013 to New Haven. They are 19-1 in their last 20 sectional games with six titles in the last seven seasons.

Johnson has seen firsthand what many onlookers have in previous years: despite roster turnover, the Spartans have been able to remain consistent in ways other programs have not. This year’s senior class, including Grant Raber, Sam Buck and Onye Ezeakudo were just freshman when the Spartans won the 2015 Class 4A state title. But the program has done a good job of bringing the next group up to fill in holes left by graduation.

” Our kids care for one another, they care about the school, about the team. They are worried about how well the team is going to do. That goes back to the culture have instilled in these kids,” Johnson said.

Saturday’s win came in a game with a lot of hype. Huntington North tore through Homestead in November 22’s season opener, 69-46. On Friday night, after the Vikings beat Wayne on a buzzer beater to advance to the sectional final, their court storming student section could be heard chanting “we want Homestead.” They got their wish.

“Our kids are mentally strong kids. Nothing was brought up about the chant until after the fact or the first game. We knew it was going to be a battle,” Johnson said of the Spartans’ eventual 40-39 win in the rematch. “They took it to us that first game. We knew that was the first game of the year, we’ve gotten better and we’ve gotten smarter. We’ve built our defense to what we’ve been able to do to stop them.”

Onto regional play, the Spartans will face Carmel (18-7) at noon on Saturday at Logansport. The winner will place at 8 p.m. against the winner of North Side (20-5) and Zionsville (22-3). Again this season, the regional will be among the toughest in the state. A team from this Regional has gone to the state finals the last three years, starting with Homestead’s state title win in 2015. Homestead’s last two regional losses have come to teams — McCutcheon in 2016 and North Side in 2017 — that went on to the state title game themselves.

“Its like any other game, we want to make sure that we are prepared, that we’ve put ourselves into the best possible position for victory,” Johnson said, noting that the focus right now is all on Carmel.

“They are good, they have a 6-9 kid and they have shooters around him. They have all the pieces and we have to find a way to stay close to them and come out with a victory. Right now we are going to put all of our eggs in a basket for Carmel.”

A familiar face emerges to battle North Side

Shaun Busick was nearly on top of the Indiana high school basketball mountain in 2004. As the head coach at Bellmont, he led his Braves to a 22-4 record before falling 63-45 to Evansville Mater Dei in the Class 3A state title game. Most of his team returned the following year, ascending to the top ranking in Class 3A led by Division 1 recruits Adam Arnold and Aaron Richie and finished 24-3. Then, after seven years with five sectional titles at Bellmont, Busick left Decatur.

He lasted just one year at Crown Point before taking the Zionsville job in 2006. He hasn’t had a losing record since his third season there, but never won a postseason title. After fighting through one of the state’s toughest sectionals last week, Busick returns to the focus of northeast Indiana as the Eagle play North Side at 10 a.m. Saturday morning in the Logansport Regional.

“We really feel like no matter who was going to be there, we were excited because it was an opportunity for our kids to show another part of our state we have a pretty good basketball program,” Busick said, noting that Homestead coach Chris Johnson, also part of the regional, was in that post when he was at Bellmont and that North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq was an assistant at Bishop Luers and later Elmhurst during Busick’s time in the area. While Busick’s Zionsville teams have played Homestead in the past and even battled South Side this season, winning 77-60 on December 9, he has never coached against North Side in his career.

Busick does expect a turnout of some Bellmont faithful at Logansport. He noted that one of his former players and Bellmont great Seth Colclasure has brought his family out to see Zionsville play this postseason as they’ve made their run to regionals after losing to McCutcheon each of the last two seasons in the sectional final. They ended that streak with a win over McCutcheon last Saturday and also during a January 13 game.

“I think that gave our guys some confidence that if we met them again in the sectional that we’d have shot to get by them,” Busick said.

As to what got Zionsville over its hump to win a sectional, Busick points to a hard-working roster that starts at the top with two big time future Division 1 athletes in Purdue recruit Isaiah Thompson and future University of Michigan baseball player Riley Bertram.

“We’ve got our best player we’ve ever had in Isaiah Thompson. He’s a difference maker and he’s just one of those kids that never gets rattled. It was great having his leadership and calming presence. We have another four year guard, Riley Bertram; Riley is a real competitive guy,” Busick said. “Those two are just really steading forces and we just have alot of good role players around. We have good size and we have guys that were willing to step.”

Thompson averages 23 points in just over 26 minutes per contest.

Quick hits

North Side leads still active area teams with 27 sectional championships. Westview has 19, Angola 17, Blackhawk Christian 11, Homestead 11 and Canterbury 6…North Side has won back to back sectional titles for the first time since 1992 and 1993…The last time North Side’s regional opponent Zionsville won a sectional in 1995, current Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was a senior on its roster…Angola heads into regional play with the third best defensive average in the state at 38.6 points per game, the lowest of any remaining teams. The Hotnets’ regional morning opponent New Castle has the state’s 18th best offense overall. At 70.19 ppg, they have the 14th highest offensive average of remaining teams…With Canterbury’s sectional title win, coach Scott Kreiger secured his 15th championship season between the school’s girls and boys teams. His non-championship seasons? Three.