LONGMONT — As a first-year varsity player, Silver Creek point guard Ryan Strong is still evolving.
Apparently part of that evolution is fearlessness. It doesn’t seem to matter where Strong is on the court. If a 3-pointer is open, he’s taking it.
Most of those splashed through Saturday night, as Strong and shooting guard Jackson Engles made for a devastating combo in the Raptors’ 78-57 home win against Mead.
Strong scored 23 points — his five 3s included several from far beyond the arc — and Engles added 22 as Silver Creek pulled away in the second half of the Class 4A nonleague contest.
“I was feeling it coming into the game, but really, I just trust my teammates,” Strong said. “They want me to shoot all the time. I trust them to get on the glass for me when I need them.”
The 5-foot-7 senior was launching from the get-go, including a 25-foot bomb for the Raptors’ first bucket. He scored the first nine points for Silver Creek (10-5), all on 3s.
“He brings teams out of a pack (defense) situation for us, and he’s a heck of a shooter,” Silver Creek coach Bob Banning said. “It’s not surprising he’s getting better as the season goes, with it being his first year of varsity ball. … He’s also starting to take the ball to the basket a bit more, and that’s making defenses make a decision.”
Mead (9-6) was forced to decide between concentrating on Strong or Engles, but couldn’t stop either. Engles was particularly hot in the third quarter (10 points), when the Raptors stretched a five-point halftime cushion to 13.
Nine different players scored for the Raptors, including Anthony Kasper, who gave an energy-filled lift off the bench with 10.
Engles had been struggling with his shot in recent weeks but appeared back to his old self in this one.
“He’s been playing with a really bad ankle and he’s had the flu, so he was 2 for 17 for a couple games,” Banning said. “I was glad to see him continue to shoot and get in a rhythm, because that was a big difference.”
Mead drilled nine 3-pointers, including three apiece by Michael Ward and Walker Korell. But after taking a 19-14 lead after one, things quickly went south for the Mavericks.
Coach Darin Reese could live with the offensive performance (although probably not the 2 for 10 performance at the foul line), but said his team simply couldn’t get consistent stops on the defensive end.
Mead hadn’t lost a game by more than 11 all season, so the 21-point spread was a bit eye-opening.
“We really haven’t had many of these since we opened,” Reese said. “Like I mentioned to our guys, when we’re playing well and doing things together, making the extra pass, we can compete with anybody in the state, and I think we’ve proven that. When we don’t, tonight can happen.”
Each team was coming off a three-point loss in their respective league schedules Friday night, and Silver Creek was the team that was able to quickly wash it away. Now that Strong has morphed into a leader, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“With the more minutes I get, I definitely feel more comfortable out there,” he said. “He puts a lot of responsibility on me, and I’m starting to thrive in the system.”
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Silver Creek 78, Mead 57
At Silver Creek HS
James Maher 2 1-3 6, Michael Ward 5 0-0 13, Walker Korell 5 0-0 13, Daniel Gernant 6 0-0 12, Blake Goodwin 2 0-1 4, Van Lindemann 1 1-3 3, Ryan Cheung 0 0-0 0, Cameron Cheung 0 0-2 0, Jake Cloke 0 0-0 0, Alex Sandstrom 0 0-0 0, Michael Rice 2 0-1 6. Totals 23 2-10 57.
SILVER CREEK (10-5)
Ryan Strong 8 2-2 23, Jackson Engles 8 4-5 22, Sam Busser 2 0-0 4, Austin Hartman 3 0-0 6, Reese Barracks 0 1-2 1, Chris Rapp 2 1-3 5, Anthony Kasper 3 4-4 10, Nick Hartman 1 0-0 2, Rhythm Ajanko 0 0-0 0, Trent Dykema 1 3-4 5, Andrew Rapp 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 15-20 78.
Score by quarters:
Mead 19 11 13 14 — 57
Silver Creek 14 21 21 22 — 78
3-point field goals — Mead (9): Ward 3, Korell 3, Rice 2, Maher; Silver Creek (7): Strong 5, Engles 2. Total fouls — Mead 18, Silver Creek 19.