SALEM — Silver Creek exorcised some demons Saturday.
The Class 3A No. 2 Dragons outlasted third-ranked Salem 58-56 in a battle of Mid-Southern Conference heavyweights. The win ended Creek's six-game losing streak to the Lions and was a giant step toward its first-ever MSC title.
The game was reminiscent of last year's Charlestown Sectional final when the Dragons appeared to have things in hand before the Lions stormed back to win 54-52 in the final seconds on their way to a state runner-up finish.
This time around, though, it was Creek that made the plays at the end. The biggest of those came with the Dragons clinging to a 57-56 lead in the final seconds, when Silver Creek senior Jaclyn Emly knocked away a pass intended for Salem's Natalie Noel.
Following a brief scrum, Creek's Sydney Sierota ended up with the ball and was fouled with 1.7 seconds left. The junior then made her first subsequent free throw, but missed the second. A fight for the rebound resulted in the Lions receiving the ball with seven-tenths of a second to play.
The game ended with Bailey Hypes' in-bound pass glanced off the finger tips of Abigail Ratts and out of bounds.
"I thought we did everything we possibly could to give the game away. I had flashbacks. I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' I was shell-shocked. But the difference was we made a couple plays," Silver Creek coach Scott Schoen said after being doused with water by his players in the locker room following the victory. "We made a couple plays and made a couple layups, and they missed a couple plays. But we were just talking about staying calm. This is two games that we had, Crown Point and this one, we've had where it's come down to a couple of possessions and we've won two of them. And we did kind of the same thing, give the ball up a little bit. But we got a big defensive stop. I can't be more proud of them because a year ago we didn't and they did, they sat down and they got a big, big stop."
The Dragons (14-2, 6-0) never trailed and led by double digits at halftime (28-17) and in the fourth quarter, they never could shake Salem until the final buzzer to earn their first win in the Lions' den since 2013.
"I had flashbacks before we even got into the building. But, of course, whenever the game's close like that, you can't help but think, 'Not again,'" senior forward Alana Striverson said.
Emly led the way with 16 points, all coming in the first and third quarters, on the strength of a quartet of 3-pointers. Senior forward Marissa Gasaway added 14 points, 10 in the second half, and nine rebounds.
Meanwhile the Striverson sisters, Alana and junior point guard Kynidi, stuffed the stat sheet. Each scored seven points while Alana dished out seven assists and snared six rebounds. Kynidi collected seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
"In (the locker room) I just told 'em that I'm proud to be their coach, that this is the true essence of a team," Schoen said. "Sometimes some kids get to play a lot and some kids don't get to play as much, we go through certain rotations. But not once, but twice, but three times, everybody's so positive on the bench. They are a true team.
"Win or lose this game, it was really evident that this is one of the best teams, as far as just caring about each other. I'll win or lose with kids like this every day, every freaking day."
Karly Sweeney scored 14 for Salem (14-2, 5-1).
Things don't get any easier for Creek, which visits Madison at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night before hosting 4A No. 2 Bedford North Lawrence at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night.
"Big, big week. Three games, Madison, then Bedford and then Austin, another conference game," Schoen said. "So we're going to enjoy this one a little bit, then we'll get back to it.
"Big week, but every week's a big week. We're just trying to stay healthy. We're trying to get ourselves ready for the tournament."
SILVER CREEK 58, SALEM 56
Silver Creek 12 16 16 14 — 58
Salem 7 10 22 17 — 56
Silver Creek (14-2, 6-0): Kynidi Striverson 7, Jaclyn Emly 16, Marissa Gasaway 14, Alana Striverson 7, Emme Rooney 8, Sydney Sierota 6.
Salem (14-2, 5-1): Callie Backherms 5, Natalie Noel 13, Abigail Ratts 8, Karly Sweeney 14, Olivia Weber 9, Bailey Hypes 7.
3-point field goals: Silver Creek 8 (Emly 4, Rooney 2, Sierota, A. Striverson); Salem 8 (Noel 3, Sweeney 3, Backherms, Ratts).