Senior Brock Kitchel is leading the Blackhawks with 14.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Photo by Shawn Barney
Senior Brock Kitchel is leading the Blackhawks with 14.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Photo by Shawn Barney
SHERIDAN - When Chris Schrank took over the reins at Sheridan, the first-year head coach outlined several goals to his players - both for the present and the future.

One was numeric: win more games than the previous season's three.


Another more crucial aim was psychological: believe in your team, teammates and in your own abilities.

Check, check and check.

When the Class 2A Sheridan Blackhawks (6-16) open Sectional 39 at Tipton on Wednesday night against Elwood (4-19), the objective will be two-fold once the ball goes up at 7:30 p.m. And it begins with what coach Schrank says the Blackhawks have already accomplished several times this year - putting themselves in position to win.

"I would love for us to have the experience of just winning a sectional game and knowing what it feels like and what you need to do to win a sectional game," the coach underlined. "That would be a big stepping stone for those guys that are coming back next year."

A victory would also provide a much-deserved moral boost to those seniors competing in their final postseason, said Schrank.

It's a matter of keeping perspective and focus.

While using the recent success of the girls' basketball team's first-ever sectional title run as inspiration, the boys' squad isn't quite chasing the ghosts of 1983. Instead, they're taking the playoffs step by step, which means a return to 2011-12 is the best place to start.

Not having won a sectional game in three years, the team previously achieved the feat six times from 2000-12. While it's nothing new, it is the direction the Blackhawks have worked toward the past three-plus months.

Winning three of its first four games to start the year, Sheridan endured some tough losses along the way leading up to the second season. Dropping six in a row at one point, but the Blackhawks were also edged out by nine points or less in five games this year.

Of their wins, two were by three points or less, including their 65-62 regular-season victory against Elwood at home on Jan. 17.

But that was in the past.

"The record in the season doesn't matter. Everyone is 0-0," Schrank said. "We're not going to take them lightly just because we beat them once. I think we're confident, but we're not overconfident. We know we have to put in the work."

Their approach has netted dividends beyond the win-loss column. They have appeared via the team's chemistry and offensive efficiency.

As a collective group, the Blackhawks are shooting nearly 45 percent from the field and are averaging 52.6 points per game.

Senior Brock Kitchel paces the offense with 14.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Juniors Jacob Chesney and Chris Roberts aren't far behind at 11.3 and 10.3 points on average, respectively.

Chesney is the primary facilitator for the Blackhawks with 2.9 assists per game, and Roberts has utilized his 6-foot-3 frame to his advantage, hauling in 5.6 rebounds per contest.

When he's on, Kitchel can challenge opposing teams inside and out, connecting 38 percent of the time from 3-point range while junior Taylor Ly is 48 percent.

"I feel like we've played well the last few weeks, and a part of that is because a lot of guys have really started to understand what they do well, and when they do those things that they really help the team," Schrank said. "It's given us a chance in a lot of games. We're right there. The guys buying in is a big part of that."

Unselfishness and court awareness has been equally as effective for the team, leading to both high percentage shots and the opportunities to strike back late.

A prime example, coincidently, occurred against Elwood.

"We were down by nine with four minutes to go in that game,"Schrank said. "They played us tough. We picked up the pace a little bit and just started attacking a little bit more. We were able to get to the rim and finish, and we had a couple of kick outs to a guy ready to shoot. It was a hard-fought game to the end."

Wednesday night should be more of the same.

"It makes it a little tougher because they've seen us before and kind of know what to expect," Schrank said. "But I think when we played them in the middle of January, we were a different team than we are now. I'm sure they're the same way...They'll throw some different things at us, and we will, too.

"If we take care of the ball and get a good shot every possession, we give ourselves a chance."

2014-15 Schedule & Results

(RECORD: 6-16)

Nov. 26: at Rossville (L, 69-71) #

Dec. 6: at Anderson Prep Academy (W, 55-49)

Dec. 9: at Faith Christian (W, 51-50)

Dec. 12: Clinton Central (W, 67-52) #

Dec. 19: Tri-West (L, 49-94)

Dec. 20: at Taylor (L, 39-42)

Dec. 23: North Montgomery (L, 40-89)

Jan. 3: at Pioneer (L, 49-58)

Jan. 10: Fountain Central (L, 47-58)

Jan. 16: at Tipton (L, 41-85)

Jan. 17: Elwood (W, 65-62)

Jan. 24: at Hamilton Heights (L, 37-78)

Jan. 30: at Lapel (L, 59-72)

Jan. 31: Northwestern (L, 53-69)

Feb. 6: Clinton Prairie (48-63) #

Feb. 7: North Miami (W, 64-37)

Feb. 12: at Carroll (Flora) (L, 48-53) #

Feb. 14: Tri-Central (L, 56-57) #

Feb. 17: Covenant Christian (L, 67-74)

Feb. 19: at Western Boone (L, 39-49)

Feb. 24: Bethesda Christian (W, 67-56)

Feb. 27: Frankton (L, 47-80)

# - Hoosier Heartland Conference games