SELLERSBURG — Just when it looked like Silver Creek’s athletic programs couldn’t do any better — the Dragons did in 2018-19.
After a banner year in 2017-18, at the conclusion of which Silver Creek was named the News and Tribune's Athletic Program of the Year, the school had to make even more room in its trophy case. That's because the Dragons won six outright conference titles, six sectional championships, four regional titles, one semistate crown and the school’s first state championship in an IHSAA-sanctioned sport — boys’ basketball — in 2018-19.
“A lot can be said about the quality of coaches that we have, but let’s not be mistaken — it’s all about the athletes,” boys’ basketball coach Brandon Hoffman said. “Our athletes, and their families, across the board have established a culture where winning is expected. Not only are we on a run of some of the most talent our school has ever had, but they all love to win and are competitive.
“They are the ones who work their butts off, possess the discipline and make the sacrifices to be successful. It takes what it takes to be a champion and our kids buy into that. They deserve all the credit and make Silver Creek a great place to be.”
It certainly was in 2018-19, and it began in the fall. The Dragons won three Mid-Southern Conference titles — in boys’ soccer, boys’ tennis and girls’ cross country — and finished second in boys’ cross country, girls’ soccer and volleyball. They then won a trio of sectional titles, in boys’ tennis, girls’ soccer and volleyball.
"First it has been a great year to be a Dragon. As an SC alum I couldn't be prouder of all of the accolades that we, as a school, have accomplished," said boys' and girls' tennis coach Ben Ahlbrand, a 2005 graduate of Silver Creek. "I continue to believe that the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes, and athletics coaches and staff, are a direct reflection of our success year-in and year-out."
Jeff Zimmerman’s volleyball team followed the eighth sectional championship in program history with its fifth regional title (all coming since 2009).
Then came the winter, which was highlighted by the boys’ basketball team’s championship season. The Dragons won their first six games by an average of 36 points before a 66-54 loss to Class 4A Jeffersonville in mid-December. That proved to be an early-season wake-up call for Silver Creek, which only lost two more games the rest of the season — by one point at Brownstown Central, a loss that ultimately cost the Dragons the MSC title; and a 77-76 loss at Bloomington South, which would go on to beat Jeff in the Seymour Regional after both won sectional titles.
Silver Creek rolled through the rest of the regular season before cruising to its 16th sectional title. The Dragons won their three sectional games, including a rematch against Brownstown, by an average of 26.3 points. They rolled to their third regional title March 9, beating Evansville Memorial by 29 points and Princeton by nine. The following Saturday, Silver Creek outlasted Indianapolis Crispus Attucks 72-69 in a wild game at Seymour. A week later, in front of a predominantly orange-and-blue-clad crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Dragons beat Culver Academies 52-49 for the 3A state championship.
“I think that win was indicative of how our team has played all year, not the poor free throw shooting and the [missed] layups, but how they picked each other up; how it wasn’t just one guy, or two guys. It was a collective effort of guys making plays at the end of the game,” Hoffman said afterward. “The thing I bragged about these guys the most over the last couple weeks was their resiliency, how much they care about each other and just their refuse-to-lose attitude, it showed tonight.”
Silver Creek teams continued to exhibit that attitude in the spring, when the Dragons won MSC titles in baseball and boys' golf.
“Silver Creek sports are thriving right now,” boys’ and girls’ golf coach Matt Graston said. “As for golf, our middle school numbers have been 20 to 30 players the last four years. The girls’ high school team is continuing to grow and competing well and the boys have put themselves on the radar as one of the more competitive teams in the area. We have some really good talent from grade school to high school with boys and girls and [I] see a great run continuing for a number of years for Silver Creek golf.”
On the girls' side, the Dragons claimed the conference crown in track & field. That was a very emotional triumph for a squad that lost long-time coach Darrell Kingery just six months earlier. Silver Creek's softball team tied for first in the MSC, before making a memorable postseason run of its own. The Dragons claimed their third sectional and regional titles in four years before losing to eventual 3A state champion New Palestine in the semistate.
"I think one of the main reasons Silver Creek athletics has had the success it has the past few years is because our athletes are very dedicated," softball coach Nate Gibson said. "Silver Creek has seen a huge wave of kids that are very, very athletic, and it’s easy to coach dedicated athletes. Our coaches are here because we love Silver Creek, it’s not just a job for the money, we are truly invested in Silver Creek, our athletes and the community."
For the second straight year, the Dragons baseball team was the last one playing. One year after appearing in the 3A state final, Silver Creek won its third straight sectional title — outlasting Providence 1-0 — then captured its second consecutive regional title before losing 2-1 to Edgewood in the semistate.
“What they’ve done over the last four years … they haven’t lost a conference game in four years, three sectional championships, two regional championships, a state runner-up,” Dragons coach Joe Decker said after the latter loss. “It’s just, you don’t replace that kind of class. You hope the younger guys learn something and are going to work their tails off. I appreciate what they’ve taught my kid. They’ve been great role models for him.”
Silver Creek's success, though, extended even beyond IHSAA-sanctioned sports. The school's cheerleaders won the state title in their division and finished fifth nationally.
All in all, it was another banner year for the Dragons. Will Silver Creek be able to maintain that success next school year after the graduation of a very accomplished senior class? The boys' basketball team will likely be favored to win a second straight state title, while several other squads (including girls' basketball) should be much-improved. Could we be looking at a trilogy? Only time will tell.