NEW ALBANY — A sizzling start and steady finish propelled Silver Creek to a historic win Friday night.
The Dragons held off hard-charging New Albany for a 51-44 triumph — ending a 24-game losing streak to the Bulldogs while earning their first-ever win at the Doghouse.
Silver Creek coach Brandon Hoffman was a senior on the squad that beat New Albany 67-59 on Jan. 23, 1998.
“I had 18 points, but I’m not going to brag,” Hoffman said with a smile. “We had a good team that year, I had a bunch of good teammates. And, it was at home. It’s been a long time.”
Senior guard Zane Gross scored 17 points while sophomore forward Kooper Jacobi added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Class 3A No. 9 Dragons (12-2), who beat the Bulldogs 30-25 on the backboards.
“It feels great,” said Jacobi, whose uncle Noy Castillo is New Albany’s No. 3 all-time leading scorer. “Our defense was huge. We had to make sure that when they got into the lane they weren’t getting easy shots and we were blocking them out, because they’re great offensive rebounders. So we had to make sure we blocked them out every play.”
Jacobi helped spear-head Silver Creek’s scorching start.
The Dragons bolted out to an 8-0 lead thanks to a 3-pointer by Gross, an old fashioned three-point play by Ty Kessinger and a layup by Jacobi.
A couple of Julien Hunter hoops pulled the Bulldogs within 8-4, but Silver Creek closed the quarter with nine straight points. Jacobi had five of those while Gross and Jack Hawkins also hit field goals for the Dragons, who led 17-4 at the first stop.
“I think our guys came in focused, and we always play well against them,” Hoffman said. “I think it’s because of the respect we have for them. I think our guys know that if they don’t bring it they’re going to get embarrassed by New Albany. The execution by us in the first quarter, I couldn’t ask for more.”
Kessinger hit two free throws 15 seconds into the second quarter to extend Silver Creek’s run to 11-0, and its lead to 15. It eventually reached 19.
Landon Sprigler’s two free throws with 4:39 to play in the period were New Albany’s first non-Hunter points and Hayden Krebs’ 3-pointer 2:33 later was the Dogs’ first non-Hunter field goal.
The Dragons took a 30-17 lead in the locker at halftime.
The Bulldogs, though, didn’t go away easily. They outscored Silver Creek 17-6 in the third quarter behind the hot shooting of Derrick Stevenson. The senior swingman scored eight points in a 10-1 New Albany run that he capped off with a driving layup to tie it up at 34-all with 48 seconds to play in the period.
Trey Kaufman hit two free throws 13 seconds later to break the game’s only tie. Then, moments later the sophomore big man blocked Hunter’s last-second attempt to preserve the Dragons’ 36-34 lead.
“They got on fire [in] the third quarter. They locked us down defensively. … It got to where we were just kind of grinding our wheels, missing some shots we should’ve made. We had some turnovers, but our defense kept us in it,” Hoffman said. “Our defense was phenomenal and so was our rebounding. We thought going into the game whoever won the rebounding war would win.”
Silver Creek held the ball for more than two minutes to start the fourth quarter before Jacobi drove to the basket, made a shot and was fouled. The conventional three-point play put the Dragons up five.
“He did what he did all night against us, he just drove right to the rim,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “I just felt like when they decided they wanted to get a shot they just drove it and got one. Us, we had to keep running stuff and try to get a good shot. Sometimes we got a good shot and just missed it. Other times we didn’t get a very good shot. You’ve got to give them credit, I thought they played pretty good defense for the most part.”
Stevenson’s third 3-pointer of the half trimmed it to 39-37, but Silver Creek scored seven straight on back-to-back layups by Gross and a three-point play by Kessinger.
Stevenson hit another 3 with 1:24 left, but it was too little too late. The Dragons went 5 for 6 from the free throw line in the final 31 seconds to clinch it.
Stevenson tallied a team-high 17 points — all in the second half — while Hunter finished with 16 for the Bulldogs (7-6).
“We couldn’t get out of the chute [at the start],” Shannon said. “They were good early. They were hitting shots, playing good defense. I thought we had some good looks, but man we couldn’t get anything to go down early. Derrick couldn’t get uncorked. For this team, he has to score. We’re going to struggle if he doesn’t score. He was held scoreless in the first half. Of course he came back in the second half and it’s a different game. He had 17 points in a half, that’s a different game. He’s our guy. We go to Ju inside and him outside. We’ve got to have a good inside-outside game and I thought they both did, eventually, but not early on.
“I was proud of the kids for not giving up. We came at them, we didn’t give up. I think we buried ourselves 19-4, it may have been worse, but I know it was at least that and all of the sudden you look up and you’ve got a tie game. … It’s like you fight so hard just to get back in it. You’ve already played really well to get it there, but it’s hard to sustain that really well. You might have hit five of your last six, well you’re not going to keep doing that.”
New Albany senior guard Chris Johnson didn’t play due to a violation of team rules. Shannon said Johnson won’t play tonight, when the Bulldogs play at Evansville Reitz, either.
Silver Creek hosts Providence at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night.
“The grind keeps going,” Hoffman said. “We’re going to enjoy this one for a couple days, though.”
SILVER CREEK 51, NEW ALBANY 44
Silver Creek 17 13 6 15—51
New Albany 4 13 17 10—44
Silver Creek (12-2): Kooper Jacobi 7-13 2-2 16, Jack Hawkins 2-6 0-0 4, Trey Kaufman 0-4 5-6 5, Zane Gross 5-9 6-9 17, Ty Kessinger 2-6 4-5 8, Brandon Northern 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 16-38 18-24 51
New Albany (7-6): Kaden Stanton 2-5 0-0 6, Landon Sprigler 0-6 2-2 2, Derrick Stevenson 6-17 1-2 17, Julien Hunter 5-9 6-7 16, Hayden Krebs 1-4 0-0 3, Tucker Biven 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-46 9-11 44.
3-point field goals: Silver Creek 1 (Gross); New Albany 7 (Stevenson 4, Stanton 3, Krebs).
Rebounds: Silver Creek 30 (Jacobi 8, Hawkins 6, Kaufman 5); New Albany 25 (Hunter 9, Stevenson 9).
Turnovers: Silver Creek 10, New Albany 8.
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