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.