BROWNSTOWN With his point guard fouled out and the Brownstown crowd roaring, with a game-long lead about to disappear in the final three minutes, Silver Creek coach Brandon Hoffman gathered his team and issued a man-to-man challenge.
“We’re going to see what you’re made of,” Hoffman told the nervous huddle around him.
These Dragons are made of fire and brimstone, proving that by quenching the Brownstown comeback and escaping with a 59-56 road victory on Friday night that shaped the remainder of the Mid-Southern Conference race.
Christian Reed scored 17 points as the Class 3-A No.3 Dragons (13-1) won a showdown with the No.2 Braves (9-2). Silver Creek never trailed, but it felt the hot breath of a desperate rival on its neck in the fourth quarter. Brownstown slashed the lead to one (52-51), but the defensive Dragons didn’t allow a field goal in the final two minutes until a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Hoffman loved his team’s toughness. Brownstown coach Dave Benter questioned his. In the bowels of Brownstown’s bowl-shaped gymnasium, with tempers testy and free throws drawing iron rather than nylon, the Dragons (now 5-0 in the league) fought through adversity for an impressive victory.
“It was a big program win,” Hoffman said. “We have so much respect for Brownstown, they’ve been the best in our conference and sectional for the last decade. So it’s big for us to come up here and win. We have some pretty tough dudes in this locker room.”
Brownstown junior Zack McCory scored 20 points and Cam Shoemaker added 17 as the Braves battled back from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter. After Collin DeHart’s wing 3-pointer cut the margin to one, Reed muscled his way to a three-point play, and the Dragons — one of the top defensive teams in the state — clamped down.
“This hairline is receding by the second,” Hoffman said. “But we did show a lot of toughness to overcome that. I thought our seniors played really well. We were really dialed in on both ends of the court. It would take an effort like we had, where every possession was a battle.”
Silver Creek threatened to deflate the hype surrounding the clash of 3-A powers. Brownstown did not measure up to its ranking as the Dragons hit 8 of their first 11 shots and rumbled to a 19-9 lead early in the second quarter. Jake Steele’s corner 3-pointer powered the Dragons to a 28-23 lead at halftime.
Nick Tinsley, who would become a key figure in the fourth quarter, scored twice to start the third as Silver Creek moved in front 36-25. Benter could only stand on the sideline, head slanted to one side with both hands on top of his closely cropped hair, and wonder what had happened to his team.
“The bottom line, this is the first time I can remember a team being tougher than us,” Benter said. “That’s disappointing. I thought our kids played scared. We have to be more aggressive. I thought they were the tougher team the first three quarters.
“Our guys really competed and I have to give our guys credit for the fourth quarter. “
Tinsley, who scored 13 points, was a post-up target on the defensive end and was milking foul trouble in the fourth. He was whistled for his fourth foul with 6:49 left, and he became a spectator. When he returned at the 4:16 mark, Brownstown had started its surge.
The hinge moment came with 2:46 left. Tinsley drove the lane and drew a foul, but also made a comment that drew a technical foul — and his disqualification. Evan Simmons made only one free throw (Silver Creek missed 12 from the line in the final quarter) in Tinsley’s place, and Jacoby Shade made the two technical shots to cut the lead to 52-48.
That was followed by the DeHart trey, and some gut-check responses by the Dragons — Reed’s basket, free throws by Jake Steele (11 points) and Gabe Bauer, and the refusal to allow Brownstown buckets.
“We made some big-time plays,” Hoffman said. The Dragons are seventh in the state, allowing only 40.1 points per game prior to the Brownstown battle, so the defensive stiffness was no surprise. In fact, it was crucial.
Shade added 14 points for the Braves, who fell to 3-1 in the league.
Silver Creek (13-1) – Gabe Bauer 8, Jake Steele 11, Christian Reed 17, Nick Tinsley 13, Cameron Cook 8, Sam Garr 1, Evan Simmons 1.
Brownstown (9-2) – Cam Shoemaker 17, Jacob y Shade 14, Zack McCory 20, Collin DeHart 3, Cole Borden 2.
3-point goals – Steele 1, Tinsley 1, Shoemaker 1, Shade 1, McCory 2, DeHart 1.