Dragons slip past Cougars
Chris Timberlake, Staff Writer
Second-ranked Silver Creek scored the final nine points of Friday night’s game to rally from a six-point deficit and advance to the Class 3A sectional final at Charlestown with a 44-41 decision over eighth-ranked North Harrison.
Played before a COVID-19-restricted sell-out crowd (each school received 500 tickets), the two teams were never separated by more than those six points in the second half.
“You do all the tough stuff to get yourself in position where you have a good chance to win and you’re not able to finish it,” said North Harrison coach Lou Lefevre. “Not one that you’re able to stomach very easily, but that’s just something that happens in sports. Teams lose tough, close games all the time. When you win it, it’s the best feeling in the world. When you lose it, it’s awful, and so we got the awful end of it and there’s not much you can do about it.”
Silver Creek placed just three players in the scoring column with Trey Kaufman-Renn scoring 17, Kooper Jacobi netting 16 and Branden Northern 11. That trio shot all but three of the Dragons’ 40 field-goal attempts.
“We did enough to hold them down, those three. They did score 100% of their points, but they didn’t score a lot of points and they didn’t score many times on their first shot. The issue in the game was we just got completely beaten on rebounding,” said Lefevre, noting a 30-15 edge on the boards for the Dragons.
“We worked so hard on defense that almost every first shot they missed, but they won the game on second and third chances,” he said.
North Harrison trailed by as many as eight points in the first half as Silver Creek rattled off 10 unanswered points for a 16-8 advantage halfway through the second quarter. The deficit was 18-10 before North Harrison junior Logan McIntire, in a span of 27 seconds, hit a three-point shot then turned a steal into a breakaway dunk to cut the margin to 18-15.
The Dragons pushed the lead to 23-17 by intermission but quickly encountered trouble in the second half. That’s when Kaufman-Renn, a Mr. Basketball hopeful and Purdue University signee, picked up three quick fouls in the first 1:47 of the third quarter, sending him to the bench with four and his team leading 23-19.
The Cougars pounced with another five-point spree by McIntire on another three-pointer followed by a dunk and a 24-23 lead.
Kaufman-Renn returned to the game at the start of the fourth quarter with North Harrison leading 31-30. The Cougars scored the first four points of the period on a Langdon Hatton dunk and Kaleb Kellems bucket inside to make it 35-30.
Jacobi, who had a double-double for the Dragons by grabbing 11 rebounds, knocked down a pair of free throws before Riley Schneider answered on a drive for North Harrison and a 37-32 lead with 6:05 to play.
Northern countered with a three-point play for Silver Creek, then North Harrison used a McIntire jumper and two free throws by Ethan Oakley to make it 41-35 with 4:18 remaining. As it turned out, those would be the last points of the season for North Harrison.
Kaufman-Renn started the decisive rally with a three-point shot then made two free throws after drawing the fifth foul on Kellems with 2:32 to play.
Neither team scored again until the final minute when a Jacobi put-back gave Silver Creek a 42-41 lead with 51.8 seconds remaining.
Jacobi snared a key rebound on a missed three by McIntire and was fouled with 12.9 seconds left. He made both ends of a bonus opportunity for the final margin.
Brody Fessel managed to launch a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer; however, it was partially blocked by Silver Creek’s Isaac Hinton, securing the Dragons’ spot in Saturday night’s final.
McIntire had a game-high 22 points and five steals for the Cougars.
Silver Creek improved to 21-4 on Saturday night with an 83-71 championship win over Madison. The Dragons have won four straight sectionals and seven of the last eight and are technically the defending 3A state champion after last year’s tournament was canceled following the sectional round due to the pandemic shut down.
Silver Creek will face fourth-ranked Heritage Hills this Saturday in the Washington Regional.
North Harrison finished the season 18-4 with three of those losses to teams ranked No. 1 or 2 in their class at the time.
“It’s been a nice two years of progress for us, and I knew when I took the job I was coming into a school with the best team in the state in our sectional and that was going to be difficult,” said Lefevre. “When you don’t win the sectional, there’s always a kind of emptiness on your season. Even if you had a really good season and you don’t win the sectional, it’s a little empty. It was just a tremendous task, and we put forth a good effort.”
North Harrison won 16 of its last 18 games after a 2-2 start and saw a 10-game winning streak snapped. The season included a perfect 9-0 mark to win the Mid-Southern Conference outright for the first time in school history.
“They’re a historically special team,” said Lefevre. “They’ve done something that no one else in school history has done, so that’s great. We came up a little short and you do feel kind of empty, but you hope now the team’s ready to take the next step of progress.”
North Harrison 8 9 14 10 – 41
Silver Creek 8 15 7 14 – 44
North Harrison (18-4) – McIntire 22, Hatton 8, Oakley 4, Wetzel 3, Kellems 2, Schneider 2.
Silver Creek (20-4) – Kaufman-Renn 17, Jacobi 16, Northern 11.
3-point goals – North Harrison 2 (McIntire 2); Silver Creek 2 (Kaufman-Renn 1, Northern 1).