HAMILTON – Blackhawk Christian has much larger goals, but before it can reach those, it had to win a sectional championship.
The top-ranked Braves left little room for drama in taking that first step in the state tournament, beating an overmatched Lakewood Park team 75-31 on Saturday night in the Class A sectional title game at Hamilton behind senior Drake Thompson's stifling paint defense and a game-high 19 points from guard Jalan Mull.
The sectional title is Blackhawk Christian's fourth in five seasons. With the victory, the Braves (24-2) avenged a 77-75 defeat to the Panthers in last year's sectional championship game.
"(Winning a sectional) is something we never take for granted," Braves coach Marc Davidson said. "We talked about the process from Day 1, being committed to the process of getting better every day. These guys have really bought into that."
The game was never really in doubt as Blackhawk Christian raced out to a 16-2 lead after a first quarter in which it did not allow a field goal and then used a 23-0 second-quarter run to put the game away. The big spurt included two dunks from 6-foot-6 forward Frank Davidson, which drew the biggest cheers of the night from the sizable Brave contingent that traveled to Hamilton.
After the game, the junior big man, who scored nine points, was far from satisfied with a sectional title.
"I want to (cut down the nets) a little more this year," Davidson said, holding a piece of the net in his hand.
One of the most devastating aspects of Blackhawk Christian's performance was the play of Thompson inside. The 6-8 center unofficially blocked five shots in the first half alone and affected countless others before playing sparingly in the second half. The lane was nearly impassable for the Panthers (9-19), who repeatedly saw drives turned away near the rim.
"There was a lot of motivation (for this game)," Thompson said. "A lot of people were just like, 'oh, it's just sectionals, they're going to win,' but I think as a team we were thinking that last year we were supposed to win and we didn't, so we're gonna make sure we work as hard as we can in this game."
A large number of Panther possessions never even made it to Thompson because they didn't get past halfcourt. Blackhawk Christian ran an effective full-court press in the first half that frequently led to steals and easy layups. One such sequence resulted in three Braves baskets within a 10-second span in the second quarter.
The win was Blackhawk Christian's 10th in a row since a 73-66 loss to Bishop Dwenger in late January and completed a sectional run in which the Braves were never challenged. They beat Bethany Christian 84-37 and Lakeland Christian 102-37 to advance to the championship game.
Freshman center Caleb Furst had 16 points for the Braves, while senior guard Carter Gonzalez led the Panthers with 13.
"We wanted to be peaking in March and we feel our best basketball is ahead of us," Marc Davidson said.