By Nicole Reitz | @nicolereitz02
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — The Silver Creek Dragons boys basketball team brought home their school’s first-ever state championship in any sport with a 52-49 victory over the defending Class 3A champion Culver Academies Eagles Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Silver Creek (25-3), the sixth-ranked team in its class, defeated a team that was ranked third in 3A and 11th overall in the state. The Dragons made 69.5 percent of their shots in the final three quarters after being held to just three of 15 shots in the first quarter.
Culver Academies (24-4) attempted to become the third school to win consecutive 3A championships since the class format was introduced in 1998, joining Washington (2010, 2011) and Greensburg (2013, 2014).
Senior guard Zane Gross led Silver Creek with 15 points, including a foul shot that gave the Dragons a 51-47 lead with 49 seconds to play. Culver Academies senior guard Ethan Brittain-Watts, who led the Eagles with 23 points, including a pair of fast-break baskets within 14 seconds to bring his team within two points with 42 seconds to play.
A free throw by Silver Creek sophomore forward Kooper Jacobi, who scored 11 points with seven rebounds, gave the Dragons a three-point lead with seven seconds to go. After a timeout, Jacobi missed the second foul shot and Culver had its chance to extend the game to overtime.
But in the final seconds, Eagles guard Trey Galloway lost control of the ball just after he crossed midcourt. Brittain-Watts collected the loose ball near the right side, but with three defenders in the area and the clock running down, all he could do was force a 50-foot shot that fell well short of the basket.
Silver Creek has been a member of the IHSAA since 1925 and made its first tournament appearance in 1926. Brandon Hoffman, the coach of the Dragons, played basketball for Silver Creek, so he realized that winning this game was big for not just him, but for the town of Sellersburg, Indiana.
“I think that win was a picture of how our team has played all year,” Hoffman said. “Not the poor free throws, shooting and the layups, but it was a collective effort of guys making plays and playing the name of the game. I hope [the title] feels great to Sellersburg. We had 4,000 people at semi-state last weekend. Today I looked up as far as I could see and there were people from Sellersburg all the way up.”
Emotions ran high for both teams at the final horn. The Dragons ended in a dog pile near midcourt, while the Eagles had tears gleaming in their eyes.
“It was a great feeling to win,” Gross said. “We played like a family. We are all one big family, so for us to actually to achieve our goal that we had in the beginning of the season is awesome, a dream come true.”
From the start, Culver played an intense game of tag with Silver Creek, which held the lead for 28:29. Both teams had trouble making free throws. Culver Academies made just nine of 20, which Silver Creek made nine of 26.
“Silver Creek played an incredible game,” said Culver Academies coach Mark Galloway. “They played physical. I give them a lot of credit. I thought defensively we hung in there. We held [Silver Creek] to 52 points and our defensive goal is always 55 points. I can’t say enough about Culver basketball. We’re upset, but we are mainly upset because it is over.”