Boys Varsity Basketball · Boys Basketball: Regional Preview/Ticket Sales

Regional Full Session Tickets are on sale in the Silver Creek Athletics Office for $10 until noon on Friday. You can purchase your tickets during the day, or between 5pm and 8pm on Thursday evening in the south end of the building in the English atrium while Sectional Championship T-shirts will be distributed. 

SELLERSBURG — Many times this season Silver Creek coach Brandon Hoffman has had a question posed to him by opposing coaches after games.

“What I always get from coaches after we play them is, ‘How do you get your guys to play so hard?’” said Hoffman, who sometimes receives a comment, too. “[Or] they say, ‘Daggone, it’s so hard to score on you guys.’ … That makes it so much fun to coach them.”

This season has been very enjoyable for the Dragons (19-5), who are coming off their fourth sectional title in five seasons and are ranked No. 8 in Class 3A entering Saturday’s Southridge Regional.

 “This season’s been great,” senior forward Jacob Garrett said. “I think we exceeded a lot of people’s expectations. We bounced back from a good year last year to have a great year this year.”

Silver Creek won three straight sectional titles and averaged 20 wins from 2014-16 before going 15-9 last season, which ended with a 70-65 overtime loss to host Salem in the sectional semifinals. The Dragons lost their leading scorer, Cameron Stephens, from that squad to graduation and even Hoffman heard talk that his team might be a year away from greatness. However, the Creek has barely missed a beat.

The Dragons rolled through the regular season, going unbeaten in the Mid-Southern Conference to claim their first league crown in three years and were a combined 14-0 against 3A and 2A teams. Silver Creek’s losses were to five 4A teams, four of whom (No. 3 New Albany, No. 5 Bloomington South, No. 6 Jeffersonville and No. 13 Brownsburg) were ranked in the last Associated Press poll.

“We’ve had some close battles against some great 4A teams and I think that prepared us for the sectional win we just got,” said Garrett, whose team routed Scottsburg 55-32 then beat host North Harrison 50-37 last weekend to claim the program’s 15th sectional title.

Now, Silver Creek will try for its third regional title Saturday. The Dragons face host Southridge (12-13) at 1:00pm at Huntingburg Memorial Gymnasium in the second game of the Southridge Regional after third-ranked Evansville Bosse (22-4) battles Greensburg (20-5) in the opener at 11:00. The championship is slated for 8 p.m. that night.

“I think one of the big keys is going to be consistency throughout the day,” Garrett said. “We can’t have any ups and downs, especially in the late-night game, if we’re lucky enough to get there. That and defense, following the scout and just getting the good shots that we know how to get. I think those will be the big keys.”

As will be continuing to do the other things that have been the secrets to Silver Creek’s success this season.

“I’d say the key is how close we are as a team,” said junior guard Zane Gross, who leads the Dragons in scoring at 14.9 points per game. “We all love playing with each other and we’re all best friends outside of school and on the court.”

Added Hoffman: “[It’s] their commitment to each other. They don’t want to let each other down. It’s nothing that I say or do. We’ve won four out of five sectionals and none of that’s because of coaching. It’s because of the culture that some of these guys we’ve had before them set, and that’s been passed down. When that’s your culture, playing hard and then trying to make it as hard on the other team to score as possible, you’re going to win some games.”

Additionally, the Dragons’ defense — they’ve held their opponents to 50 points or less in 20 of their 24 games — and a magnanimous senior class have been the hallmarks of their season.

“This group, it’s always kind of picked each other up,” Hoffman said. “If someone’s not playing well, someone else picks up the slack. We also have a good mix of defensive stoppers and scorers. And guys that come off the bench do a great job, too.”

While Gross and 6-foot-5 junior forward Jack Hawkins (8.8 points), both starters, are the team’s top two scorers, Silver Creek’s Nos. 3 and 4 scorers are freshmen Trey Kaufman (7.2 points) and Kooper Jacobi (6.4 points), both of whom come off the bench. The production of all four is a side effect of the selfless, six-man senior class.

“Jack and Zane get a lot of press, and our freshmen, they get a lot of press too, but our seniors, their leadership has been great,” Hoffman said.

Leading the way for the sextet have been forward Bennett Beyl (4.9 points, five rebounds per game), guard Sammy Barnett (4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds) and Garrett (1.9 points, 3.8 rebounds). All three have committed to play a different sport in college: Beyl and Garrett football and Barnett baseball.

“Jacob, I don’t think he scored Saturday night [in the sectional final], but he had as big an impact on the game because he guarded North Harrison’s leading scorer and best player and he wasn’t effective at all,” Hoffman said. “Sammy was the same way. He guarded the Book kid, he kind of locked him down. They’re a mature group and they know what their role is on the team. Which, as a coach, when everyone knows their roles, that’s half the battle right there.”

But the battle isn’t over yet. The Dragons have to play the Raiders on their homecourt, then if they win, could potentially face Bosse, which beat them 60-57 in the Washington Regional final two years ago.

“We’re just having a great year and I can’t wait for it to continue after this weekend,” Gross said.

Added Hoffman: “We’ve got the kind of group that you don’t want it to end. It’s a fun group to be around because they really do care about each other, they really do like playing with each other. … I just can’t reiterate enough how this group really shows that hard work pays off.”

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