Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson described Marion as the kind of team that you can't run plays against – you have to make plays.
And the Braves made more of those plays Tuesday night, defeating the Giants 84-64 to improve to 18-3.
“I think they're playing their best basketball of the year right now,” Davidson said of Marion (10-9), which lost junior star Jalen Blackmon to a knee injury in early January. “I think for them, when Jalen went out, it took them awhile to figure things out, and they've figured it out now. They're dangerous.”
The Braves missed their first four shots before junior wing Zane Burke finally connected.After that, Blackhawk Christian seemingly couldn't miss. By the end of the first quarter, the Braves led 24-12. Burke and juniors Marcus Davidson and Callan Wood made 3-pointers and the Braves found junior forward Caleb Furst under the basket three times in the first quarter.
“They really pressure you and make it difficult to get into anything offensively,” Davidson said. “But we did a good job of making plays and recognizing where we could hurt them.
“And when we could move the basketball I thought we got really good shots.”
In the second quarter, Marion senior guard Jakylen Thomas came alive. He was 1 of 5 in the first quarter but shot better than 50% from the field the rest of the way, and he also shot 8 of 10 from the free throw line to finish with a game-high 28 points.
“He's so quick and explosive and quick off the dribble, but he's also shooting the ball well this year,” Davidson said. “He's just a tough kid to guard. You do it by committee, it's not one guy that's going to guard (Thomas).”
Despite Thomas' heroics, the Braves led 42-28 at halftime, but Davidson still felt the need to call a timeout just over a minute into the second half.
“I personally wasn't doing a great job of boxing out at that moment, so he wanted me to know that he needed me to box out,” Furst said of the timeout.
Blackhawk Christian held firm and never let the Giants shoot their way back into the game.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Braves' lead remained at 14.
Burke scored nine of his 21 points in the third quarter to keep the Braves out front. Furst led the way with 25 points and 17 rebounds, a fitting line after being honored before the game for being the school's all-time leader in rebounds and blocks.
“Obviously it is cool, but we're more focused on team goals and taking it one game at a time,” Furst said.
Marcus Davidson added 11 points for the Braves.