BOURBON – It wasn't until the end of the fourth quarter that Blackhawk shook off Gary 21st Century in the afternoon semifinal at the Class A Triton regional.
But in Saturday night's championship game, the Braves (26-2) needed just 77 seconds to show who was boss, quickly laying down the hammer in a 77-39 win over Argos (22-5) that clinched a second straight regional title.
Between the opening tip – which was won by the Dragons – and Argos coach Gordon Mosson's timeout called with 6:43 remaining in the first quarter, Braves senior guard Abe Hicks backed an Argos ball-handler over the halfcourt line, forcing a turnover, and sophomore forward Caleb Furst grabbed two rebounds and scored three times, once on a dunk.
And aside from a brief moment when Argos' Owen Nifong hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Dragons back within 8-6, that stifling defense and inability to stop Furst and his teammates frustrated Argos all night.
“We talk to them all the time about being humble and being hungry,” Blackhawk coach Marc Davidson said. “That's what I love about this group, they've really embraced that. We're not satisfied with being where we are, but we're hungry for more.”
Furst put together a typically gaudy performance, scoring a game-high 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Senior Frank Davidson added 14 points and nine rebounds, and Michael Pulver scored nine points while going after seemingly every loose ball and forcing turnovers.
“Michael Pulver is really the heart and soul of our team,” Marc Davidson said. “I've coached a lot of tough kids, but nobody tougher than Michael. He just brings such grit and toughness and fight.
“We're used to it because we see it every day at practice, we've seen it for years, but we still appreciate it.”
Aside from Nifong, who hit four of his attempts from behind the arc and finished with 16 points, the Dragons struggled to get anything going on offense.
“Compared to Gary, (Argos) likes to run their offense, they like to go slower,” Pulver explained. “So we knew we had to pressure them, being in the gaps and denying it in full-court press.”
The Braves led 33-18 at halftime and Pulver scored the first basket of the second half despite being fouled and then completed an old-fashioned 3-point play. Furst emphatically closed the door on any hopes of a rally by scoring seven straight points to put the Braves up 49-25 midway through the third quarter.
Despite the radical difference in styles between Gary 21st Century (19-7) and Argos, Furst said that he and his teammates felt fully prepared to face each.
“Coach Davidson, he did a great job preparing us all week,” Furst said. “We spent different days working on every team that we could have played, and he allowed us to be ready for the game.”
Blackhawk, which was knocked in the semistate round of last year's playoffs, will play Lafayette Central Catholic (24-4) in semistate next week. The location of the game will be determined in the coming days.