By MATTHEW CRESS
Running a gauntlet has seldom looked so easy. And it’s never looked like so much fun.
Underdogs against a ranked opponent for the second time this week, the Silver Creek Dragons instead turned in a performance that should get the attention of the entire state. Creek took control early and crushed No. 6 Corydon Central 74-51 to advance to the finals of the North Harrison Sectional on Friday night.
Silver Creek’s final obstacle will be seventh-ranked Brownstown, which ended Charlestown’s season 77-41 in Friday’s first semifinal.
It will be the third straight ranked opponent for the Dragons, who got past No. 13 Madison on Wednesday in what was one of the toughest sectional draws in the state.
“We got a taste of how fun it can be on Wednesday,” said Silver Creek coach Brandon Hoffman, who led the Dragons to their first sectional final since 2009. “It’s been a lot of fun since then.”
SILVER CREEK 74, CORYDON CENTRAL 51
Rather than bring the team out to its large contingent of fans, Hoffman and the rest of the Silver Creek coaching staff stood aside and let the surge of Dragon faithful rush the locker room in a jubilant scene.
It was yet another feel-good moment for a team that says it has nothing to lose.
“There’s no pressure,” said Silver Creek guard Gabe Bauer, who knocked down four 3s during Friday’s win. “We were supposed to lose to Madison. No one thought we could beat Corydon by 23.”
No one except the Dragons themselves, who trailed only once, at 5-3, and took control for good with a 9-0 run midway through the second quarter. A 3 from Bauer kicked off the spurt and consecutive putbacks from Zach Davidson and Jake Steele seemed to deflate the Panthers (19-4). Silver Creek took a double-digit lead into the intermission after a jumper from Davidson at the buzzer, set up by a nifty two-man play with Christian Reed.
“All year long, we’ve been wondering what it would be like if all our guys came to play at the same time,” Hoffman said. “That was tonight.”
The heroes kept coming for the Dragons, even after Corydon blazed out of halftime with the first five points to close to within 35-29. Davidson responded quickly with a jumper, followed by a driving score from Nick Tinsley and another 3 from Bauer to turn back the threat and give Silver Creek its biggest lead to that point, at 42-29.
Corydon guard Timothy Wiseman briefly gave the Panthers the momentum back, closing the third period by getting a steal near midcourt and then pulling up for a 3 that went through the net as the buzzer sounded, making it 46-38 entering the final frame.
Again, the Dragons staved off the run by feeding the ball to Davidson, who delivered another clutch jumper that made it 50-40. Silver Creek would do the rest from the foul line, where it got six consecutive makes — four from Tinsley, who went 9-of-10 for the game — to push the lead to 56-40. Bauer’s final tray from the left wing sent the junior strutting down the sideline after he made it 59-42 with less than five minutes left and the celebration could officially begin.
The victory avenged a 53-46 loss to the Panthers on Feb. 21, a game that the Dragons had tied up with a minute to go before faltering. This, Hoffman said, is a new day.
“We felt that we blew our opportunity there,” Hoffman said. “Well, here was our opportunity again. It’s just different this week than it was last week.”
Tinsley led the Dragons with 23 points, while Davidson added 16 in the victory. Reed had nine points and six rebounds.
Corydon star Bronson Kessinger was held mostly silent as Silver Creek assumed control, scoring eight of his 13 points in the first half. Wiseman had nine points on three 3-pointers.
BROWNSTOWN 77, CHARLESTOWN 41
The Pirates were also big underdogs in their matchup with the Braves, and like Silver Creek, no one had told them.
Charlestown (6-16) hung tough throughout most of the first half and trailed just 13-11 at the end of the first quarter. While the Braves started to create separation in the second period, a layup by Tanner Wesp had the Pirates within 25-20 with five minutes to go in the first half.
But it would be nearly eight minutes before Charlestown would score again.
In the meantime, the Braves ran off 13 straight points, turning a small advantage into a 38-20 chasm. Brownstown upped its ball pressure coming out of the intermission, getting five steals in the first four minutes of the second half, nearly all of which became points on the other end.
“It’s what happens with a young team,” said Charlestown coach Sean Smith. “Brownstown is very good and absolutely playing its best basketball. We didn’t come out and lie down or anything, but we haven’t been very successful against that kind of pressure.”
The Pirates showed some fight on back-to-back baskets from senior Darren Taylor that made it 41-25, but quickly gave up a 7-0 run that extended the Brownstown lead to 23. It was 53-32 early in the fourth period when the Braves’ Cole Borden delivered a rare trifecta — three consecutive 3s that turned what would have been a respectable margin into a total rout.
It was the final game for two Pirate seniors in Taylor and Christian Jackson, who emerged from the Charlestown bench to a big ovation and a basket in the final minute. Still, with the entire starting five returning, it’s tough to imagine the Pirates not being greatly improved next season.
“That’s a decision every player has to make,” Smith said. “Teams that win championships invest their time and if we do that, we could have a much better season.”
Wesp and Hunter Crace had eight points each to lead Charlestown, while Taylor chipped in seven.
CLASS 3A NORTH HARRISON SECTIONAL
BROWNSTOWN 77, CHARLESTOWN 44
Brownstown 13 15 23 26—77
Charlestown 11 9 8 13—41
Brownstown (20-3): Austin Snodgrass 18, Chaz Schneider 10, Collin DeHart 6, Jacoby Shade 12, Cole Borden 15, Chase Klinge 4, Drew Shoemaker 3, Zach McCory 4, Kyle Benter 4.
Charlestown (6-16): Tanner Wesp 8, Hunter Crace 8, Darren Taylor 7, Korey Harris 7, Jordan Knoebel 4, Darius Brown 3, Christian Jackson 2, Dewey Cardwell 2, Tristan Chester 3.
3-point field goals: Brownstown 12 (Borden 5, Snodgrass 2, Shade 2, Schneider 2, McCory); Charlestown 2 (Harris, Brown).
Rebounds: Brownstown 18 (Shoemaker 5); Charlestown 23 (Wesp 6)
Assists: Brownstown 6 (Schneider 2); Charlestown 8 (Knoebel 4).
Steals: Brownstown 10 Schneider 3); Charlestown 3 (Cardwell 2).
Blocked shots: Brownstown 1 (Schneider); Charlestown 0.
Turnovers: Brownstown 5, Charlestown 16.
Fouled out: None.
Technical fouls: None.
SILVER CREEK 74, CORYDON CENTRAL 51
Corydon 12 12 14 13—51
Silver Creek 16 19 11 28—74
Corydon Central (19-4): Timothy Wiseman 9, Tommy Wiseman 6, Grant Robinson 3, Brayden Lander 11, Jay Brent 2, Mitchell Frederick 7, Bronson Kessinger 13.
Silver Creek (14-8): Nick Tinsley 23, Shae Durham 4, Brooks Howell 2, Zach Davidson 16, Jake Steele 2, Gabe Bauer 14, Christian Reed 9, Sam Garr 4.
3-point field goals: Corydon Central 6 (Timothy Wiseman 3, Tommy Wiseman, Robinson, Frederick); Silver Creek 6 (Bauer 4, Tinsley 2).
Rebounds: Corydon Central 19 (Kessinger 6); Silver Creek 25 (Steele, Reed 6).
Assists: Corydon Central 6 (Tommy Wiseman 3); Silver Creek 8 (Steele 4).
Steals: Corydon Central 6 (Lander 3); Silver Creek 4 (Bauer 2).
Blocked shots: Corydon Central 3 (Kessinger 2); Silver Creek 4 (Reed 2).
Turnovers: Corydon Central 6, Silver Creek 10.
Free throws: Corydon Central 5-9; Silver Creek 18-20.
Fouled out: None.
Technical fouls: None.