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Southwood takes Blackhawk Christian out of its comfort zone in semistate win

Blackhawk Christian's Jalan Mull drives by Southwood's Luke Winer during the first half of Saturday's loss to Southwood in the Class 1A semistate at Huntington North. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Blackhawk Christian senior Kyle Zurbuch scores around the defense of Southwood's Dallas Holmes during the first half of Saturday's loss to Southwood in the Class 1A semistate at Huntington North. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Blackhawk Christian senior Drake Thompson takes the ball up for a shot during the first half of Saturday's loss to Southwood in the Class 1A semistate at Huntington North. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Blackhawk Christian freshman Caleb Furst prepares to enter the game during Saturday's loss to Southwood in the Class 1A semistate at Huntington North. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Blackhawk Christian freshman Caleb Furst goes after a loose ball in the second half of the team's loss to Southwood in the Class 1A semistate at Huntington North. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Blackhawk Christian senior Jared Hofer looks on in disbelief in the final minute of the Braves 55-53 loss to Southwood in the Class 1A Huntington North semistate on Saturday. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Southwood's Peyton Trexler hugs coach John Burrus after the Knights beat Blackhawk Christian on Saturday to advance to the Class 1A state title game. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
The Southwood Knights beat Blackhawk Christian to advance to the Class 1A state title game. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Blackhawk Christian senior Luke Sassmannshausen receives the semistate runner up ball on Saturday after the Braves' loss to Southwood. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Southwood coach John Burrus cuts down the net after the Knights beat Blackhawk Christian on Saturday to win the Class 1A semistate at Huntington North. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)

HUNTINGTON – Southwood High School boys basketball coach John Burrus’ game plan centered on making No. 1 Blackhawk Christian uncomfortable.

Other words that could be subbed for uncomfortable: uptight, distressing, out of sorts and off-kilter.

All of those, in a mix, resulted in No. 3 Southwood disrupting Blackhawk’s potent offense and upsetting the Braves 55-53 in the Class A semistate championship Saturday at Huntington North. Southwood will play No. 4 Morristown for the state championship next Saturday.

Blackhawk took an uncomfortable walk to the offseason.

“Our defense has been good all year,” Burrus said. “We’ve scored a lot of points and most games, we’re picking up the pace because we want the ball. This game, we wanted to make sure they were a little uncomfortable on offense.”

Blackhawk had won five tournament games heading into Saturday, never scoring fewer than 75 points. The Braves had reached 100 points twice. With the dynamic inside/outside play from guards Jalan Mull, Frank Davidson and Luke Sassmannshausen and the inside play of Caleb Furst and Drake Thompson, Blackhawk could score from anywhere.

Yet for most of the semistate game, Blackhawk’s players couldn’t seem to find the offensive rhythm they had demonstrated all season.

Credit Burrus. Credit Southwood. And credit the tenacity and belief of the coach and his players.

“We ran a three down (zone) where we were handing off all their big kids and trying to do a lot of things to make them uncomfortable,” Burrus said. “We tried to keep them slowed down the whole game. Getting off to a good start helped, and when I looked up the second quarter and they had 18 points I thought, ‘We’re doing OK.’ ”

Blackhawk was hit by foul trouble early, with Furst having to sit most of the second quarter, a period in which Southwood built a 10-point lead, which remained seven at halftime.

While Mull (24 points, six assists, eight rebounds) delivered throughout the game in his matchup with Southwood guard Peyton Trexler, the rest of his teammates struggled.

“We had good shots,” Mull said. “We just didn’t hit them.”

Blackhawk stayed in the game, and gained a fourth-quarter lead, with defense of its own. Sassmannshausen, in particular, clamped down on Southwood’s Carson Blair, holding him to five points, 13 under his per game average.

The Braves went ahead 49-47 on a steal and a basket by Mull with 2:12 left to play, but it would be Blackhawk’s final lead of the season.

Dallas Holmes, a junior and usual third option in Southwood’s offense, hit a three-point shot to put Southwood up 50-49.

From that point, it was a matter of who would make the final big play.

After a free throw by Blair made it 55-53 with less than 8.2 seconds left, Blackhawk had one final possession. Mull drove to the basket, his shot bounced off and Furst grabbed the rebound. Furst’s put-back wouldn’t fall. A tremendous season ended.

Holmes led Southwood with 23 points and Trexler scored 16 points.

“The Trexler-Mull matchup was a really good matchup,” Burrus said. “You’d take either guy. Mull is very shifty and he did a great job against our zone. It came down to a few possessions. Dallas Holmes hit that big three and we’re going to the state championship.”

For Blackhawk, the season ends with a 26-3 record and some major disappointment.

“We never really got into a real flow,” Marc Davidson said. “Their zone bothered us for whatever reason. A lot of shots we normally make, we didn’t make today.”

It’s accurate to say Blackhawk never got comfortable, which was at the heart of Burrus’ game plan.

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