BY CHRIS STONER
It looked like a sectional preview. Class 3A sectional 30 opponents Silver Creek and Corydon Central battled a nip and tuck game Friday night and the Panthers snuck away with a 35-34 on senior night in Sellersburg.
The Dragons (8-11, 3-6 MSC) held a six-point lead in the third period but went cold shooting in the fourth, as Corydon (14-5, 7-2) knocked off Creek for the third time in the last four meetings.
“Believe it or not, but I think we took just as good as shots in the second half as the first half,” said Silver Creek head coach Brandon Hoffman, whose team shot just 1 of 7 in the final stanza. “We just didn't make as many in the second half. We had a lot of clean looks there in the last three minutes of the game. We just missed them. I don't have any complaints about our defense or offense execution.”
The two teams' leading scorers on the night traded buckets at the end. Corydon's Bronson Kessinger, who led his team with 12, gave his team its first second half lead 33-32 on a put back with 1:29 left. Then Creek's Gabe Bauer, who led all scorers with 14, dropped home his sixth bucket to put the host on top by one with 31 seconds remaining.
Kessinger, however, would have the last laugh with another basket with 15 seconds left. Lucas Barnett's jumper at the end fell short and the Dragons' five-game winning streak came to an end.
“Sometimes when the Kessinger kids turns around and shoots it and he's 10 foot up in the air, and he makes it over the top of us, then that's just good defense by us and better offense by him,” Hoffman said of Corydon's 6-foot-7 sophomore. “We missed a front end of the one-and-one that was big there and missed a wide open three in the corner by a best 3-point shooter and Barnett missed a good look at a 15-footer [at the end]. I would take those three opportunities again.”
The Creekers came out of the gates shooting well by hitting 5 of 7 first-quarter shots and led 12-11 at the first stop. Both teams only made three field goals each in the second quarter and a Bauer jump shot at the first half buzzer gave Creek a slim 19-18 edge.
“We just talked about how the game was going to end,” Hoffman said of his halftime talk. “The game was going to be close, a dog fight. Every possession was going to be very phsyical. That's what it came down to. It was a battle. I am proud of my guys for battling.”
The Dragons Zach Davidson powered his team in the third period. The junior guard scored seven of his 10 points in the third and nailed a triple for a 26-20 lead at the 4:43 mark. Corydon, however, regrouped and hit five of its 10 shots in the third and closed within 31-29 going to the final eight minutes.
Creek controlled the game's tempo from start to finish with its methodical offense and half-court zone defenses. Neither was a surprise to Hoffman.
“I knew that's how it was going to go,” Hoffman said. “We've done a great job of controlling the tempo in the last half of the year. If you told me we'd have a 15-footer from Barnett to win the game — I'd take it.”
Four Dragon seniors played their final game on their home court Friday night and the Dragons' head coach had high praise for his exiting class.
“Our seniors don't ever get the headlines because most of our talent is young, but they're tremendous leaders for us — on the court, in the classroom, and out in the community for us,” Hoffman said. “They're definitely going to leave behind a great legacy in our program.”
Silver Creek finishes their regular season Friday night at Seymour.