By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Winning, according to Vince Lombardi, is a habit. Not a sometime thing, the Green Bay coaching legend insisted, it’s an all time thing. Nobody is doing it better, right now, than Silver Creek, one of 10 undefeated teams remaining in Indiana.
The Dragons, the defending Class 3A state champions, have won 22 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the state. They won the last 10 of last season en route to the title, and they’re 12-0 this season after crushing Scottsburg on Tuesday. Their last loss, you ask? Bedford North Lawrence.
The rematch of state powers is set for Thursday night, when the Stars (10-1 and ranked No.5 in Class 4A) welcome 3A No.2 Silver Creek to BNL Fieldhouse for a terrific clash of high-level programs. This battle might not mean anything in terms of conference standings or future tournament posturing, but it means everything to two proud programs that circled this collision on the calendar many weeks ago. Winning means that much.
“It’s a winner’s mentality,” Silver Creek coach Scott Schoen said when describing his team, but in reality covering both. “They don’t want to lose. Winning is a talent, it’s a skill. They’re high achievers. We want to win that game because it’s a state-wide ripple effect. It means a lot.“
The ripples of this rivalry, like throwing the rock in the pond, actually started two seasons ago, when BNL dominated the star-struck Dragons (66-35, ouch) during their first trip to Damon Bailey Court. They reversed that decision the next June, winning a summer scrimmage that doesn’t count (except BNL didn’t forget it). The Stars won last year’s battle in Sellersburg 59-54, and the Dragons learned valuable lessons from that setback.
They’ll come in breathing fire for this collision.
“What does it mean for us? I love the fact we’re going on the road, it makes us better,” Schoen said. “I know we’ll compete and play hard, so it will be a great test for us. Last time we went up there, we got our butts handed to us. But now we’re a little more experienced.”
Silver Creek lost three starters from the championship roster, but three returning veterans are the nucleus. Senior guard Kynidi Striverson, an Indiana All-Star candidate and Junior All-Star last summer, is the catalyst while averaging 17 points and 5 rebounds. Senior guard Emme Rooney (11.0) and senior guard Sydney Sierota (7.5) are stabilizing forces, while senior forward Lacey Tingle (8.5 points, 6.0 boards) and 6-0 senior Merideth Wilkinson (7.0 points) have filled graduation voids.
“The three pieces that we have returning, people forget, they were big pieces,” Schoen said. “They played significant minutes. They have really stepped up, they’ve been significant in our success. They’ve all been in big games, in big moments, and that stuff carries over. The biggest change to overcome this year was rebounding. That was my fear, how could we rebound? But the kids have figured that out.
“We needed Wilkinson (who did not play last season while ineligible). She anchors us in the post. She has saved our season.”
Silver Creek has already conquered four Hoosier Hills Conference teams (Seymour, Jeffersonville, New Albany and Floyd Central) and will close the regular season against Columbus East. The Dragons will not be intimidated.
“They’re playing pretty well,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “They’re disciplined, they play hard, they have shooters and a great point guard. Striverson is very talented, one of the more talented guards in Southern Indiana. She plays extremely hard. They have different weapons we have to be prepared for.”
BNL has been a defensive slayer, allowing only 34.6 points per game. The Stars have not been been crisp or efficient in terms of shooting in recent outings, but the defense has been almost impenetrable.
”I’d rather be a defense-first team,” Allen said. “We’re playing so well defensively. If you get to that point of being stale at a certain point in the season, they start to relax defensively. And we’re not doing that.
“We feel like our execution is better, we just haven’t shot the ball as well as we’d like. Why is that? If somebody could tell me that, that would be great. I think it’s confidence. All you can do is keep encouraging your kids. If they start to have success, it will change if they see some go down.”
Sophomore star Chloe Spreen continues to lead the Stars in scoring (16.5) and rebounding (6.0), while junior point guard Karsyn Norman (14.5) has set a tenacious tone. Add in the defensive toughness and offensive roles of Madisyn Bailey, Carlee Kern and Mallory Pride, and the Stars pose a lot of problems.
“Defense travels,” Schoen said. “They have the capability to just choke you out. We have to be smart. They’re very talented. Those other kids are good, but when you throw in Karsyn and Chloe, those are special kids.
“They’re a blue chip program, they’ve been winning for a long time. Those kids are just winners. I have so much respect for their program.”
Balance was BNL’s key to victory last season. Chloe McKnight had 14 points, Haley Deckard came off the bench for 12, Spreen added 11 and Norman totaled 10. Alana Striverson had 19, Kynidi Striverson finished with 16, while Marissa Gasaway had 14 points and 10 boards for the Dragons.
SILVER CREEK at BNL
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: Silver Creek 12-0 (ranked No.2 in Class 3A); BNL 10-1 (ranked No.5 in Class 4A)
Sagarin ratings: Silver Creek 88.22; BNL 96.50
Last meeting: Last year at Silver Creek, Chloe McKnight led a balanced attack with 14 points as BNL prevailed 59-54. Haley Deckard added 12 points for the Stars, while Alana Striverson had 19 points for the Dragons.
Previous game story: Smarter Stars stop Dragons
Game notes: Silver Creek is the defending Class 3A state champion. BNL leads the series 2-0, posting a 66-35 victory during the 2019-20 campaign.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Chloe Spreen 5-9 So.
F – Carlee Kern 5-8 Sr.
F – Mallory Pride 5-8 So.
G – Madisyn Bailey 5-8 So.
G – Karsyn Norman 5-6 Jr.
Silver Creek Dragons
F – Lacey Tingle 5-9 Sr.
F – Merideth Wilkinson 6-0 Sr.
G – Kynidi Striverson 5-8 Sr.
G – Emme Rooney 5-9 Sr.
G – Sydney Sierota 5-6 Sr.