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MARION - Blackhawk Christian has no problem picking battles with giants.
The Braves compete in Class A boys basketball, but you can't tell it by their schedule, which includes relative giants such as Wayne, Snider, New Castle and Concordia Lutheran and the literal Marion Giants. Sometimes they take their lumps, as they did in a 79-62 loss at Marion on Friday. Other times, including wins over Wayne and New Castle, they dish out the lesson.
Each time, they're taking big steps toward their ultimate goal, which is postseason success.
“If you play teams that you're considerably better than, you don't necessarily get exposed for what you need to get better at,” Blackhawk coach Marc Davidson said. “If you play a good team, they will expose your weaknesses. But that's a good thing, because you know what you have to work on.”
So that's why Blackhawk continues to bolster its schedule with big boys, a tact it has used for several years now. Sometimes, the obstacles are too high, as in last Friday's trip to Marion, where the Braves hung tough into the second half but couldn't maintain down the homestretch to the James Blackmon Jr.-led Giants.
The next night, playing possible sectional opponent Bethany Christian, Blackhawk took its lessons, learned and won 59-48 to improve to 9-7.
Blackhawk's regular rotation of players includes mostly juniors and sophomores. In the game at Marion, sophomore Will Davidson scored 20, junior Wesley Davidson 17, junior Joey Morlan 12 and junior Riley Reimschisel nine. The only seniors are Noah Starr, Jordan Maley and Aaron Jones.
Blackhawk players embrace the tough schedule even as it brings a formidable challenge.
“It can't do anything but make you better,” Morlan said. “These kinds of games, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. It shows you what you need to work on. I think you have to play up to a certain level and it definitely helps bring out the best player in you.”
The idea, of course, is that playing bigger schools in the regular season pays dividends when the postseason arrives and the Braves face nothing but other Class A schools.
Blackhawk's last sectional title came in 2010. The Braves won regionals in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and a semistate in 2004.
“We just feel that it's going to prepare us for the state tournament,” Marc Davidson said. “We will play anybody that's willing to play us. We're looking at trying to add some different teams next year if we can. All of it prepares you for the state tournament.”
It was especially helpful for the Braves to have back-to-back games against Marion and Bethany Christian, since it allowed them to take the lessons of the Marion game and apply them against a Class A opponent.
It also shows them the importance of playing at a high level each night, regardless of the opponent.
“We always talk about staying humble and staying hungry,” Davidson said. “I told the boys they have to continue to stay humble. Don't walk out patting yourself on the back because you played (a larger school) tough. Make sure we turn around and play Bethany Christian with the same energy we had playing Marion.”
Morlan said the lessons dished out by bigger-school opponents are always worth it, not only when Blackhawk pulls the upset.
“With those games, you have to take away what you can improve on and perfect that stuff,” Morlan said. “Find all your weaknesses and make those weaknesses into strengths. Every game is a new game and you have to go with new fresh mindset. You can't dwell on the last game. Think about the game at hand and play your hearts out.”