The University Lady Trailblazers looked like they were heading in the wrong direction entering their Class 1A sectional tournament last week.

Losses in four of their final five regular-season games — the lone win coming Jan. 25 on Senior Night against the Living Water Marlins homeschool team — might have given some cause for concern.

But, none of those worries kindled in the Trailblazers locker room.

“We were competitive in all those games … even in the games we lost, we were playing well,” University head coach Justin Blanding said. “We didn’t look at it like we were struggling — we were looking at it like we growing.”

University (17-7) made its schedule as difficult as possible, Blanding said, in an attempt to prepare themselves for the kind of run the Trailblazers are on right now. Tough road matchups late in the season against teams such as Class 3A Tri-West Hendricks (16-8) and Class 3A No. 13 Beech Grove (18-5) resulted in losses, but those game also helped serve as a barometer.

“We want to see where we really are,” Blanding said. “We were disappointed we lost some of those games, but our players understood what the big picture was.”

After wins over Indianapolis Metropolitan, Indiana School for the Deaf and Bethesda Christian in last week’s Class 1A Sectional 58, the picture the Trailblazers have started to paint for themselves is a shot at a state championship.

The road ahead won’t be easy, though.

University draws Class 1A No. 4 Jac-Cen-Del (20-3) in the regional semifinals. The Eagles are currently flying high on a six-game win streak and aren’t strangers to this spot. In 2016, the program won its first state championship with a 57-39 win over Argos at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Blanding respects the tradition and prestige of University’s regional semis opponent, he said, and the Trailblazers have embraced the opportunity at hand.

“It’s Jac-Cen-Del — automatically people are putting them into the next round,” Blanding said. “A lot of people are overlooking us already, but we’ve got a tight circle here and we know what we’re capable of.”

Blanding said he thinks his team matches up well with the Eagles, with one of the biggest keys to the game being team defense. Jac-Cen-Del is led in scoring by senior guard Lilly Simon, who averages 17.2 points a game to go along with 5.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists. But the Eagles aren’t the 14th highest scoring team (63.04) in the state because they rely on one player.

Junior Mariah Day, 15.9, and senior Morgen Carroll, 11.7, give Jac-Cen-Del a duo of viable second and third offensive options.

When the Trailblazers have the ball, sophomore Lindsey Syrek, 18.8 points per game, and senior Natalie Nickless, 13.5, are the focal points of the offense, but there are a number of other players on the roster who can step up on any given night.

Juniors Brooke Andrus and Lily Snyder average 9.6 and 8.7 points per contest, respectively, and junior Jhordan McGuire is working her way back from an ACL tear she suffered July 11. “If (Jhordan) was healthy all year, doing what she does, she’d be in double-figures scoring as well,” Blanding said.

McGuire returned against Living Water and has scored at least six points in three of four games since.

Another potential factor in Saturday’s outcome, Blanding said, is how his team responds to a raucous, and possibly hostile, environment. “We’re in Indy, so we have a good following around here, but (Jac-Cen-Del) brings whole towns. It’s little things like that.”

He said it’s crucial the Trailblazers just focus on the small details they’ve rehearsed in practice in season, run their offense and make open shots. Blanding, who was an assistant coach on the University boys basketball team for their previous six state runs, will use his past experience to help make sure his players aren’t intimidated.

It won’t be easy, but University is up for the challenge.

“We don’t do moral victories around here,” Blanding said. “Every game that we play, we expect to win.”

Tip-off between University and Jac-Cen-Del is scheduled for Saturday at noon at Southwestern (Shelbyville). The winner will play that evening at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of Tindley and Bloomfield.