|Mon, Mar 10, 2014 10:03 PM
February 26, 2014 | 10:46 AM
"We knew since Clarksville lost to Brownstown we controlled our destiny to get our name on the banner," Corydon Central's Tommy Wiseman said. "We never let it get too far out of sight."
It was obvious winning the Mid-Southern Conference championship was on the mind of Wiseman and several other Panthers when the senior pointed to the rafters of the Corydon Central gymnasium Friday night. The pointing fired up the black-and-gold crowd after Wiseman picked off a Silver Creek pass in the closing seconds, one of four turnovers by the Dragons in the final 1:10.
Free throws were made late against the Dragons, who were previously unbeaten in MSC play, as Silver Creek was held scoreless in the final 3:15. It all led to Class 3A No. 4 Corydon Central pulling out a 53-46 victory over Silver Creek, assuring the program's first MSC title since the 2000-01 season.
"Our kids were really tough mentally in the end," Corydon Central coach Jamie Kolkmeier said. "They hurt us on the boards at times because they are so long and big. I knew it would be a dog fight."
The game against Silver Creek was the finale for the Panthers in the MSC, closing with an 8-1 league record. Three other teams — Clarksville, Brownstown Central and Silver Creek — have one loss each but each have at least one game remaining.
"This was one of our goals coming into the year," CCHS senior Grant Robinson said. "I didn't play last year, but I know the grudge these guys have when it comes to how last season ended. We knew it would be tough this season, but we learned the MSC is one of the best conferences this year in Southern Indiana. We put this as a top priority."
Entering the fourth quarter, the illuminated scoreboard read 39-39.
Bronson Kessinger, Corydon Central's talented 6-foot-7 junior, opened the final frame with a pair of free throws to give the Panthers the lead. The game would tie on one occasion in the fourth quarter, coming after Christian Reed scored in the paint after Kessinger's freebies. Reed, a 6-6 sophomore, battled throughout the night in the paint with Kessinger.
Four points each from Brayden Lander and Timothy Wiseman gave Corydon Central a 47-44 edge with 3:50 to play. Thirty seconds later, Silver Creek's Zach Davidson would score his team's final bucket to pull the Dragons within one.
From there, the Panthers' defense took over.
Four of Silver Creek's possessions inside 1:10 to play resulted in turnovers, more specifically, steals by the Panthers. Mitchell Frederick jumped a passing lane to record a steal. It led to made free throws by Timothy Wiseman. Kessinger was next up to pick off a pass, then two by Tommy Wiseman.
"Mitchell Frederick made a few plays he wasn't happy with moments before then made a huge play when he got a help-side steal," Kolkmeier said. "He basically helped us turn it into a two-possession game. All the pressure went to them."
In the end, it was the defense that paved the way to victory. The Panthers were one of five teams to hold Silver Creek in the 40s. Four were resulted in losses for the Dragons.
"Our kids played really hard," Kolkmeier said. "Silver Creek is really good. They are long and can do a lot of things. Reed is going to be a really good player. They have other players that are tough to guard. It's a good showing by our guys to hold them to 46."
Knowing a spot on the conference banner was there for the taking was on Tommy Wiseman's mind late in the game.
"I don't think they scored the final few minutes, but we knew what was at stake," he said.
He finished with 10 points along with three steals, rebounds and assists.
"We tried to buckle down to get stops then run some clock on offense with the small lead," Tommy Wiseman said. "We made some great steals, strong rebounds and were really strong with the ball. I'm really proud of the guys."
Kessinger stuffed the stat sheet for the Panthers. He made seven of 12 shots for 20 points. He also had nine rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
Of the final few minutes, Lander summed it up by saying the team was "scrappy."
"We were getting after loose balls and guys stole a few passes," he said. "We buckled down. Truthfully, our defense was great tonight."
Corydon Central led the entire first half with the exception of trailing by one after a 7-0 Dragons run in the first quarter.
Increasing the lead to 16-9 early in the second quarter was the Panthers with a Kessinger mid-range jumper. Clawing back, the Dragons would only trail 22-20 at the half when Nick Tinsley converted a 3-point play.
The battle in the third quarter was among the bigs. Kessinger scored 12 of his points in the frame. Meanwhile, for the Dragons, Reed had eight of his 12 in the eight-minute span as well. He'd finished with 12 points and 10 boards. Jake Steele also was a load inside; the 6-6 junior had 11 points and seven rebounds for the game.
Silver Creek had a hot streak early in the third, resulting in a 33-28 lead when Tinsley hit a bucket.
Firing back, Timothy Wiseman scored underneath while Kessinger stepped out to swish a trey to tie the ballgame. It was back and forth until the Panthers closed the door with defense and offensive efficiency.
Battles against Brownstown Central and Clarksville were decided in overtime, with the Panthers earning a split. This time no overtime was needed.
"The biggest thing is closing games out offensively," Robinson said. "We had good enough defensive possessions in other big games late, but our offensive spacing wasn't as good. Games like this show the improvement we've made, especially in a slow game, to show how we worked on efficiency."
The season is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory for the Corydon Central program, which improved to 17-2. A week away from postseason play beginning, the MSC title isn't the only thing on the Panthers' mind.
"It's a great feeling, but Tim Dunaway texted me that this was half the battle and let's get the rest," Lander said. "We're looking for a sectional, regional. It's not over. Our goal after the Clarksville game is to win out the rest of the season. We've had great practices, and that is where it starts."
Lander finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists against the Dragons.
"Brayden had a really nice game tonight," Kolkmeier said. "I got to looking, and Brayden is going to finish his career with over 800 points but is also a member of conference championship teams, regional runner-up team. Tonight was 65 wins at the varsity level for him and, hopefully, we have more left. He and Tommy have been a big part of those wins. There are probably a few kids in the state that can say they have won more, but there is not many."
Winning the MSC is still something the players are well aware of as being tough to achieve.
"This is one of the best conferences in Southern Indiana," Tommy Wiseman said. "There are still two or three teams that can get a share of it. It's a great honor."
The Panthers have one game remaining in the regular season, a home contest against Bedford North Lawrence (9-10) Friday night at 7:30.
Corydon Central drew rival North Harrison (7-11) in the first round of the Class 3A North Harrison Sectional and will play March 5 at 6 p.m.
"Wow, what a sectional," Kolkmeier said after the Silver Creek game and before the draw was released. "It's going to be interesting. If you don't play pretty well, you won't survive."
Silver Creek 9 11 19 7 – 46
Corydon Central 11 11 17 14 – 53
Silver Creek (12-5, 6-1 MSC) – Reed 12, Steele 11, Tinsley 10, Davidson 4, Durham 3, Howell 3, Bauer 3.
Corydon Central (17-2, 8-1) – Kessinger 20, To. Wiseman 10, Ti. Wiseman 9, Lander 9, Robinson 3, Frederick 2.
3-point goals – Silver Creek 3 (Tinsley, Durham, Howell); Corydon Central 4 (Kessinger, To. Wiseman, Ti. Wiseman, Robinson).