SELLERSBURG — Class 3A’s top-ranked team opened the 2019-20 season in convincing fashion Wednesday night.
Fresh off winning the school’s first state championship in any sport, Silver Creek outscored visiting Columbus East 46-27 in the second half en route to a 75-40 win over the Olympians, which included a 36-point outburst from star junior Trey Kaufman.
The four-star forward, one of two returning starters who is fielding offers from Indiana, Purdue, Louisville, Xavier, Evansville, Indiana State and Wichita State, poured in 24 points in the second half – 15 in the fourth quarter – and added nine rebounds and four blocks.
Nevertheless, he knows he and the Dragons have a ways to go before reaching mid-season form. The 6-foot-9 Kaufman went 12-15 from 2-point range but just 2-8 from 3. Silver Creek shot 55 percent overall but just 37 percent from deep and 39 percent from the line.
“We really didn’t play good,” Kaufman said. “Coach said you have to be happy every time you win, which is true. But at the same time, I understand the criticism I have for myself, the way I played, and the team. … You can beat Columbus East by whatever we beat them by, but when it comes to the [challenging] teams we have coming up. … We can’t do that.”
“I have to shoot better. I have to shoot a lot better. A lot of shots I took normally fall. They didn’t today.”
Wednesday’s win marked the 12th straight for the Dragons (1-0) – ranked No. 1 in the preseason Class 3A Associated Press poll – dating back to last year’s historic run. Silver Creek is now 6-0 all-time versus the Olympians (0-1).
Dragons coach Brandon Hoffman, too, knows better days are ahead for the defending champs, who sport just one senior.
“I thought our energy was really good,” Hoffman said. “ … Our defense – 13 points in the first half, you don’t complain about that. But our guys know we could have improved in a lot of ways. Could have shot a lot better, obviously. Could have finished a little better. Could have shot free throws better. But at the same time, nobody is going to be ungrateful for a win.”
The Dragons got a strong all-around game from fellow junior forward Kooper Jacobi, who totaled eight points, eight rebounds, five assists and six steals. Jacobi after a strong summer has offers from Indiana State, Akron, IUPUI, Miami (Ohio), LaSalle and Bellarmine.
Guard Branden Northern had 16 points and five assists and Isaac Hinton added five points, six rebounds and three assists. The Dragons dominated the boards, 31-17, and had 18 assists on 30 made shots.
The hosts jumped out to a 17-5 lead more than midway through the first quarter before entering the halftime break up 29-13. The Dragons held the Olympians to 27 percent shooting and outrebounded them 17-7. Silver Creek assisted on eight of 12 first-half makes.
The lead ballooned to 36-15 to open the second half, and the Dragons led 50-38 after three quarters in wake of a Jacobi three-point play. Kaufman after a nine-point third quarter tallied 15 of the team’s 25 points in the fourth. He checked out with 3:18 showing.
“He wants to keep getting better,” Hoffman said. “I know he probably wants to get back in the gym tonight and get some shots up. That’s the kind of kid he is. He’s a perfectionist. He’s a competitor. You saw how special he is in the second half when he got going.”
Next up for the Dragons is a home matchup against Charlestown (0-1) on Tuesday. The Pirates, who suffered a 40-point loss to Silver Creek a season ago, dropped a 65-50 decision to New Washington Tuesday.