This year's schedule has been anything but kind to the Blackhawk boys basketball team.
Besides playing in Class AAA's perennially competitive Section 2, the Cougars also have faced a pretty challenging non-section schedule against a handful of state-ranked opponents, including Greensburg Central Catholic and Beaver Falls in Class AA, section-foe Central Valley in Class AAA and New Castle in Class AAAA.
Blackhawk also played non-section games against Gateway (Class AAAA) and District 3 Steelton-Highspire (Class AAA).
Through 15 games, the Cougars owned an 8-7 overall record with a 6-1 mark in section play. Entering this week, they sat just one game behind section-frontrunner Central Valley in Section 2-AAA.
"Our kids have played pretty hard and we're competing," Blackhawk coach Andy Hedrick said. "Our record really doesn't show where we are. We've played a monster of a schedule.
"A lot of those teams we played were state-ranked teams, but I think that has helped us out against the section."
After losing four of their first five games, the Cougars had rebounded well midway through the season and had won five of their past six games, including three in a row last week. They were scheduled to play Aliquippa Wednesday in a non-section game.
"We're shooting the ball well," Hedrick said. "We got off to a rough start but it wasn't because we were playing horribly; it was because we played some really good teams."
The fact that Hedrick's roster doesn't include a player taller than 6 feet hasn't helped, either.
"With our size, we know we're going to be at a disadvantage," Hedrick said. "That's something we have to overcome every night. We've played against a lot of teams who have some pretty tall players.
"Shooting the ball well has helped us in that department. Teams have been able to run some different defensive sets against us, but we've still been able to shoot well, especially from 3-point range."
With an all-seniors starting lineup, Hedrick has relied on 5-10 point guard Chase Migliore, 6-0 guard Chris Cassidy, 5-9 guard Tyler Engle, 5-11 guard Tyler Nicholson and 5-8 forward Tyler Shroads as his starting five.
Dave Hornfeck, a 5-7 senior, as well as 5-7 junior Zack Duffy and 6-0 junior Tyler Long also have added depth off Blackhawk's bench.
Migliore has averaged 16.1 points a game with Engle following at 15.9 points. Nicholson has been chipping in with a steady 9.7 average while Cassidy has added 8.6 points a game.
"The way we've been scoring is we're able to spread it out among several people," Hedrick said.
"We've had games where we had five guys in double figures. Teams have tried to throw different defenses against us, but we've been able to break those defenses because we have so many guys contributing."
Blackhawk picked up its sixth section win last Friday with a 72-43 victory against Ellwood City. Migliore paced the Cougars with 18 points, while Nicholson and Engle each scored 16. Cassidy added 12 points.
"We had some pretty high goals coming into the season," Hedrick said. "Whether or not we were going to weather our non-section schedule depended on a lot of things. We knew we were going up against a lot of tough opponents.
"We wanted to keep our morale up. We wish we would have won more games, but our losses haven't been bad losses. We did have a couple wins there that helped boost morale. We had a nice win against Beaver Falls and that is a good team to beat."
The Cougars continue their second half of section play tomorrow night at Hopewell before facing West Allegheny, Ambridge Area, Central Valley and Beaver Area for a second time this season.
Central Valley, which is ranked No. 2 in Class AAA by the Post-Gazette, beat Blackhawk on Jan. 10, 67-47.
"We play in a very good section," Hedrick said. "Central Valley is one of the best in the WPIAL and all the teams are good enough to make the playoffs. We're fortunate to be 6-1 because a lot of those games could have gone either way.
"We have to continue to do what we've been doing. We have to overcome [a lack of] rebounding and not turn the ball over. If we do that, we'll be able to stay in games."