Apr. 3—You don’t need to be an astute judge of basketball to understand why Fort Wayne Blackhawk is in Saturday’s IHSAA Class 2A state championship game. The stats tell a compelling story on their own.
Parke Heritage’s opponent in the 1:30 p.m. showdown leads the state in scoring at 82.67 points per game, six points better than second-place Lafayette Jeff. That scoring proficiency has also helped the Braves rack up the state’s best scoring margin at 25.53 points per game.
Blackhawk hasn’t amassed these totals playing tomato cans either. Blackhawk has beaten six 4A teams, including a powerful Crispus Attucks team. The Braves’ two in-state losses came against Homestead and Cathedral, ranked No. 1 and No. 5 in the final 4A state polls.
Wait, there’s more. Standout center Caleb Furst — all 6-foot-10 of him — is a four-star Purdue recruit, good for 21.5 points, 14.3 rebounds, 66.4% success from the field, including a 37.7% success rate from 3-point range.
Furst is augmented by a supporting cast where every other regular player shoots at least 36% from 3-point range. Guard Zane Burke is also good for 6.3 assists per contest.
“They have a very complete team and it’s obviously centered around Furst, who is a stud. They’re kind of the perfect team because you’ve got the big guy, but also have the guys to stretch floor and it keeps your defense honest. It’s a problem,” Schelsky said.
The Braves (27-3) are a team that has forged its own high-flying identity. The Wolves know they have to confront that to win the 2A state title and they’re relying on their own identity as a defensive team to get the job done.
The Wolves are the 12th best defensive team in the state and fourth-best in 2A as they’ve held opponents to 42.13 points. Parke Heritage has upped the ante in the postseason as they’ve held every team they’ve played below their seasonal scoring average. Only North Putnam, who scored exactly 42 points, even came close.
“They’ve got a really good big kid and quite a few shooters to go with him. We just have to get stops. Offense versus defense — we’ll see how it goes. Our goals is to get stops. We all buy in to what we do, we just have to execute,” Parke Heritage swingman Noble Johnson said.
In a game where Parke Heritage has to attempt to impose it’s style on Blackhawk, Schelsky feels confident. It isn’t the first time Parke Heritage has faced the top-scoring team in the state. When the Wolves traveled to Lafayette Jeff on Jan. 30, the Bronchos led the state in scoring. Parke Heritage lost 54-49, but held the Bronchos to their third-lowest scoring output of the season.
“We were able to slow them down and dictate the tempo and we had opportunities to win that game, we just didn’t finish the job at the end of the game,” Schelsky said. “This is a total contrast in two styles of play. I’m sure as we talk about it being slow and methodical, I’m sure they’re thinking about speeding it up. When you play us? You know going in you’re going to get guarded.”
The Wolves (27-3) take a lot of pride in that identity.
“We’re usually the toughest team on the floor. And I don’t think there will be anything different on Saturday,” said Parke Heritage’s Christian Johnson, who led the Wolves at 16.3 points this season.
As for Furst? Schelsky thinks the Wolves can at least partially hold him in check much as they did to Southridge’s Colson Montgomery in the Wolves’ 40-36 semistate triumph.
“We have to do the same thing we did to him that we did to Montgomery. Know going in that we can play defense and he might still score. We just have to make it as hard as possible for him to score. We have to guard those other four guys well enough to win the game,” Schelsky said.
Parke Heritage’s players are experienced and smart. They know that the team that imposes its identity on the other usually wins.
“It’s going to be like most of our games are. We’re going to try to make it as low scoring as possible to give ourselves a chance. We’ll know they’ll score a lot, but we have to know basketball is a game of runs, don’t get our heads down, play defense and play our hearts out,” Parke Heritage center Connor Davis said.
If the Wolves succeed, they’ll claim the first boys basketball championship for a Parke County school.