COLUMBUS — Kooper Jacobi began his senior season with a bang.
The 6-foot-6 senior forward scored 44 points and snared 18 rebounds to lead still reigning Class 3A state champion Silver Creek to a 106-81 win at Columbus East in the season-opener for both Wednesday night.
Junior point guard Branden Northern added 21 points and nine assists while senior wing Isaac Hinton recorded a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) for the Dragons, who played without senior standout Trey Kaufman. The Purdue-signee missed the game due to an ankle injury.
“Obviously with big Trey being out everybody kind of needs to elevate their game, and Koop came out cooking,” Silver Creek coach Brandon Hoffman said.
The Toledo-signee was 19 for 27 from the field, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range. Jacobi tallied 30 points in the first half — 15 points in each period — as the visitors built a 52-38 lead.
“He was putting on a clinic, especially in the first half — scoring on 3s, scoring inside, taking it to the basket,” Hoffman said of Jacobi, who was eight points shy of Ernie Gilbert’s single-game school scoring record. “That was just a phenomenal performance by a really, really, good player.”
Meanwhile Northern went 9 for 14 from the field, including 8 of 11 from 2-point range.
“Branden did a good job of kind of controlling the tempo and he did a great job of attacking the basket,” Hoffman said.
Junior guard Trey Schoen added nine points on 3 for 5 shooting from 3-point range for the Dragons, who were 13 for 29 (44.8 percent) from beyond the arc and 31 for 38 (81.6 percent) from inside it.
“With Trey out, and Nolan Gilbert wasn’t able to go, it was kind of ‘next man up,’” Hoffman said.
Sizzling shooting helped Creek overcome the absence of those two, particularly the 6-9 Kaufman, a Mr. Basketball frontrunner who averaged 25.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game last season.
Hoffman said Kaufman’s ankle injury has been a lingering issue for the last “couple weeks” and added that he’ll continue to rest until it’s completely rehabbed.
“It’s best for everybody that we get him 100 percent,” Hoffman said. “Whenever he gets to 100 percent is when he’s going to come back. We want to get him where he needs to be for where we need to be at the end of the year.”
Despite that Hoffman acknowledged that it was nice to see his team back on the court for the first time since it won the sectional title in early March.
“Above all it was great to play,” he said. “Just to get on a bus and put the Silver Creek jersey on and be able to go play. That was just a blessing to be able to go do that.”
Silver Creek (1-0) is slated to begin Mid-Southern Conference play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night when it visits Charlestown.