> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
The best word to describe Silver Creek’s run to a Class 3A North Harrison Sectional championship is simply “unbelievable.”
The young Dragons got the worst draw possible, but they knocked off No. 13 Madison 55-51, blew out No. 6 Corydon Central 74-51 and shocked No. 7 Brownstown Central 37-36 for their first sectional title since 2000.
“You know what, it’s still unbelievable to us,” Creek coach Brandon Hoffman said. “We kind of knew that [winning the sectional] next year was what people thought. Our motto was kind of ‘Why not us.’ Wouldn’t it be really cool if we knock off these three teams and do something special?”
At any point in the season against any draw, the Dragons knew that they’d have to win the sectional as underdogs. After losing their first three games of the regular season — and four of their last five — they became serious underdogs.
The regular season concluded with a 61-51 home loss to Seymour, a team that was 2-16 entering the game.
“It was a combination of a lot of things,” Hoffman explained. “I think it was fatigue. I think it was frustration. [Center Christian] Reed didn’t play the last week. It was definitely a low period for us. But even after we lost to Seymour, [senior Brooks Howell] stood up in the lockerroom and said ‘Let’s forget about this. We’re going to win the sectional.’”
— Sports editor Greg Mengelt
FRESHMAN COMES UP BIG FOR ’DOGS
Freshman Isaac Hibbard showed in Saturday night’s Class 4A Seymour Sectional championship game that his future is bright at New Albany.
The 5-foot-9 guard scored nine of his 12 points in the final quarter in the Bulldogs’ 55-49 victory over Jennings County. Hibbard hit two 3-pointers early in the period and then converted a crucial three-point play to help New Albany build a 48-40 advantage with about five minutes remaining in regulation.
“[Bulldogs’ senior Leondre McBirth] found him and he hit two big shots for us,” New Albany senior guard Dustin Cochran said about Hibbard. “We just took the momentum away from them.”
Hibbard showed some maturity and poise late in the contest when he inbounded the ball without incident against the Panthers’ full-court press. In fact, with 31.8 seconds left in the fourth and New Albany up 51-47, Hibbard calmly called a timeout when he could not find an open teammate while trying to inbound the ball.
“I think Hibbard has ice water in his veins. He does not fold under pressure,” Bulldogs’ coach Jim Shannon said. “Sometimes I can look at kids and they fold, but that kid can take it. I give it to them and I know he can take it. He’s the leader of the future for us and he certainly gave us some leadership tonight.”
Saturday’s fourth-quarter performance was one of several examples this season where Hibbard has elevated his game to help New Albany succeed.
“What can you say about the Hibbard kid?” Shannon said. “I mean, my gosh, he’s a freshman and he’s stepped up big in every game.”
— Staff writer Kevin Harris
Winning a sectional is special no matter how it happens. When nearly the whole team contributes to the cause, it becomes even more memorable.
Everyone knows that second-ranked Clarksville features two of the best players in Southern Indiana in Andrew Jones and Calvin McEwen. And while that duo played well in the tournament, it was players like Marquise Parrish, Evan Guenthner, Ahem Yennes, Wyatt Kissel and D.J. Coleman who stepped up to held the Generals win their second straight sectional title.
“We had seven, eight guys that did some big things for us,” Clarksville coach Jason Connell said. “Everybody played a big, big part in winning the sectional.”
Parrish lifted the Generals past No. 8 Crawford County in the first round and Guenthner had a big game in the semifinal win over Eastern. Kissel, who missed much of the season after sustaining a knee injury during football season, was all over the boards in the final two games.
“He’s finally healthy,” Connell said. “He’s not even in real basketball shape yet.”
Then there’s the case of Coleman. The senior played sparingly a year ago but worked to become the Generals’ top rebounder and defender and the team’s No. 3 scoring option.
“He was really focused [during the sectional],” Connell said of Coleman. “The main thing with D.J. is he has worked so hard in the weight room. He is a strong kid. I think that helped his confidence. He’s been our leading rebounder and, when called on to make big shots, he has. He’s played a vital, vital role. He’s done a lot of things to help us win a lot of games this year.”
JONES SHOULD BE FINE
Jones left Saturday’s championship game late with a hip injury. He went into the lockerroom with the team trainer and didn’t return to the game.
Jones apparently landed on the hip late in Saturday’s 41-32 win over Providence and was diagnosed with a bruised AC joint. He was limited in practice Monday but Connell said he should be perfectly healthy for Saturday morning’s regional semifinal against Mid-Southern Conference rival Austin.
Defending state champion Borden’s run in the Class A tournament ended in the first round after a 67-48 loss to Rock Creek Academy.
It was, of course, a bitter way for the Braves’ season to end. Looking at Borden’s season objectively, however, it’s extraordinary what it accomplished.
After losing four starters from last year’s state championship team, the undersized Braves went 16-5 and had four winning streaks of at least four games.
After Friday’s loss, Borden coach Doc Nash wasn’t ready to look at the upside of the 2014 season quite yet.
“Some may say we overachieved,” he said. “Our expectations are to [win sectionals]. I think if you ask those kids, they’d tell you the same thing.”
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
D.J. COLEMAN, CLARKSVILLE
Coleman had a game-high 16 points in the Generals’ 68-55 first-round win over Crawford County, another 20 points in Friday’s 67-45 semifinal victory over Eastern and had 11 points and six rebounds in Saturday’s 41-32 championship game win over rival Providence.
TOP SECTIONAL PERFORMANCES
• Leondre McBirth, New Albany: McBirth went 8 for 16 from the field, 7 of 9 from the line and made five of his nine 3-point shots as the Bulldogs beat Jennings County 55-49 to wrap up the Class 4A Seymour Sectional title.
• Tanner Wesp, Charlestown: Wesp went 11 of 13 at the free throw line and scored 13 points in the Pirates’ 53-51 comeback win over Salem in the opening round of the North Harrison Sectional.
• Gedeon Nzombi, Rock Creek: Nzombi had 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Lions knocked off defending state champion Borden 67-48 in Friday’s Class A semifinals.
• Aaron Eldridge, Christian Academy: Eldridge scored 25 points to help the Warriors to a 61-46 first-round win over New Washington at Borden.
• Dustin Cochran, New Albany: Cochran scored 13 points and made several key buckets as the Bulldogs downed Bedford North Lawrence 61-51 in Friday’s semifinal win over Bedford.
• Marquise Parrish, Clarksville: Parrish had 16 points and a game-high three steals in the Generals’ 68-55 win over Crawford County at Paoli.
• Gabe Bauer, Silver Creek: Bauer scored all 15 of his points in the second half to help the Dragons beat Madison 55-51 in the opening round at North Harrison.
• Grant Goad, Providence: Goad had a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds in Tuesday’s 53-43 first-round win over host Paoli.
• Tyrise Major, Jeffersonville: Major had 15 points and three steals and keyed a comeback that fell short, 85-75 in overtime to Jennings County.
• D.J. Coleman, Clarksville: Coleman had a game-high 20 points in the Generals’
• Myles Ervin, Floyd Central: Ervin had a game-high 17 points in the Highlanders’ 57-43 first-round loss to rival New Albany at Seymour.
• Nick Hayes, Providence: Hayes led the Pioneers with 16 points in Friday’s 58-40 semifinal win over Henryville.
• Nick Tinsley, Silver Creek: Back at North Harrison, Tinsley scored 23 points as the Dragons stunned Corydon Central 74-51.