Last season, Silver Creek enjoyed its finest campaign in program history, winning its first 23 games and advancing to the state final four at Glens Falls. Two of the main calling cards for that team were no timeouts and nearly no substitutions. The Black Knights relied heavily on the chemistry and endurance of its five starters, nearly resulting in a state championship. This year, gone are the heart & soul of that team, Zed Williams (Second Team All-Centercourt), and the team's main ball handler and scorer, Stephen Marcey (All-Centercourt HM). Still, with three of their starters back, the Black Knights have plenty to move forward with. However, two more starters from last year's crew, Kaine Kettle and Brennan White, didn't have enough practices in to play in the team's first game. So heading into the season opener against Salamanca, that left only Bill Brooks with any experience from last season and a whole new cast around him. That turned out to be more than enough.
Brooks took over the game in the second half, scoring 18 of his game-high 30 points, to lead Silver Creek to an 81-59 nonleague victory over the visiting Warriors. The 6-8 junior added 14 rebounds and a recorded six blocked shots, though there seemed to be a lot more than six Salamanca shots sent the other way by the big guy.
Silver Creek trailed by four early in the second quarter, before taking command of the game with a 17-4 run. Brooks scored eight points during the push and Silver Creek led 33-27 at the break. Midway through the third quarter, the Black Knights connected three times from downtown as part of a 17-6 run that extended its lead to 50-35. Salamanca climbed back into the game early in the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to seven after six straight points from Jared Fish, but would get no closer. Silver Creek closed out the contest on a 20-5 run.
While filling the void left by the departures of Williams and Marcey is nearly impossible, the Black Knights are replacing the tandem with a highly skilled pair. Senior Andrew John was ineligible last season, but showed flashes of brilliance last night before leaving the game during the second quarter with an ankle injury. John, who is a natural scorer, had nine points when he left the game. Also, sophomore Connor Gates showed a great feel for the game, reminiscent of the style of play Marcey displayed. Gates finished the game with 15 points. Frank Wolf, Ayden Jimerson, Jake Lewis, and Chance Gates all saw extended minutes for the Black Knights in the absence of Kettle and White, and made a case for head coach Rob Genco to consider more substitutions this season.
It had to be a major confidence builder to win handily under the circumstances (playing without three starters the entire second half), as the team heads to Olean this weekend for a tournament. Silver Creek is matched up with Bradford (PA) in the opening round, and a win would almost guarantee a date the following day with Olean (the Huskies face Maple Grove in round one). While the matchup would have had more luster last season (Olean & Silver Creek finished 1 & 2 in the Buffalo News small school poll), it's still a matchup the Black Knights are hoping for.
Salamanca was led by junior Andrew Crandall's 20-point performance. Crandall suffered a fractured ankle during football season and wasn't even expected to ready, but moved about just fine as he stroked it from outside and finished near the basket. Fish, a 6-7 senior guard, had 17 points in the game for the Warriors. The team was without junior standout Damien Taylor who is out of the state this week, and also had just two reserves at their disposal.
Salamanca will face Holland in round one of the Pioneer Motorsport Tournament on Friday. The other side of the bracket has Pioneer hosting West Seneca West.