By GREG MENGELT
Even with a 3-10 mark through 13 games, there had been signs that Silver Creek was becoming a pretty good basketball team.
If there were any doubts left, the host Dragons erased them with a stunning 37-30 triumph over Class 2A No. 4 Providence on Tuesday.
Earlier in the year, Silver Creek (4-10) had chances to win games against Floyd Central, North Harrison, Clarksville, Eastern and Charlestown twice. Each time, the inexperienced Dragons came up short. On Tuesday, however, they executed down the stretch and earned the elusive marquee victory.
“The thing that we haven’t done all year is string a lot of [good] possessions together,” Silver Creek coach Brandon Hoffman said. “There wasn’t any consistency or any flow. Against Providence, you have to be disciplined every possession. I thought our focus was consistent the whole game.”
“They’re first-year varsity players and we’re experienced, and it looked like the other way around,” Providence coach Lou Lefevre said of the Pioneers’ second defeat of the season.
After a Gabe Bauer 16-foot jumper opened the fourth quarter, Silver Creek had its largest lead at 28-21. Two Ryan Pickerrell free throws cut the Dragon advantage to 28-25 with 6:27 left, but Silver Creek was nearly flawless during a 9-5 run to finish off the Pioneers.
Providence had the ball with a chance to cut the Dragon lead to a point or even tie the contest. But Silver Creek’s Zach Davidson got a steal and a bucket to wrest momentum for good.
“That was a big play,” Hoffman said. “They were getting some momentum back and he swayed it back in our favor.”
After Pickerrell hit a pair of free throws, Bauer nailed a 3 to give Creek a 33-27 lead with 3:05 left.
“We didn’t have the offense to bail us out and the question became: ‘Can we stop them?’ And the answer was clearly no,” Lefevre admitted. “[Silver Creek] played a great game.”
Jake Steele blocked a shot that led to a Shae Durham free throw that matched the Dragons’ biggest lead at 34-27 with 2:12 remaining.
Then a Bauer block off a George Knott shot gave Silver Creek possession with a seven-point lead with just under two minutes to play. Despite Providence’s pressure, the Dragons were able to hold on to the ball for more than a minute.
“That’s probably what I’m most proud of tonight,” Hoffman said. “The close games that we could have won, we just weren’t very fundamental. Tonight, we did a lot of those fundamentals. That’s what won us the game.”
After a Silver Creek turnover with 57.2 seconds left, three free throws — one by Cory Cahalan and two by Knott — helped Providence cut the Creek edge to 34-30 with 30.3 seconds left. But the Dragons went 3-for-4 from the line down the stretch to clinch the victory.
“I think with a younger team, this could be big for momentum for the last half of our season,” Silver Creek senior Lucas Barnett said.
Silver Creek led throughout the first quarter, but a Dalton Duley offensive putback with two seconds left gave the Pioneers a 9-8 lead after one quarter.
The second period saw three ties, including the 15-15 deadlock at the half, and a pair of lead changes. Durham scored five of his nine points in the second period, but he missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer that would have given the Dragons the lead at intermission.
The third period was the decisive one. Durham hit a 3, followed by a Bauer drive that gave the Dragons a 20-19 lead. Barnett then hit a pair of 3-pointers in a 43-second span to give the Dragons a 26-21 advantage heading into the final period.
“We made some big shots,” Hoffman said. “And we had some great individual plays.”
The Dragons scored more than half of their points from behind the 3-point stripe. Durham, Barnett and Bauer, who had a game-high 13 points, each hit a pair of 3-pointers. Davidson added a seventh.
“With Providence, you know you’re not going to get a lot of good looks,” Barnett said. “So our first open look, we wanted to take it and hope it went in.”
“Our plan was to get a good shot against them,” Hoffman said. “I didn’t think we forced more than two shots that I can think of.”
Despite being 12-2, Lefevre has been saying for weeks that his team is not playing well. He’s hoping a loss may get his players’ attention.
“I’ve been trying to awaken this team from a funk for the last several weeks,” Lefevre said. “I haven’t been smart enough to figure out a way. I don’t think tonight’s game was any different than any other the last couple weeks, but Silver Creek really play terrific.”
Providence will try to get back to its winning ways Friday when it hosts 5-7 Christian Academy. The same night, Silver Creek will try to win back-to-back games for the first time this season at Madison.
“We’re right there,” Hoffman said. “We just cut out some 30-second lapses in focus and we’re right there. We’re going to be a scary team in sectional if we can play consistently like tonight.”