LONGMONT — Entering the season with a young team in terms of varsity experience, Silver Creek boys basketball coach Bob Banning has been working on growing a culture with his team to play for each other and trust each other on the court.
Late in the season, that message is playing out, and it’s resulting in some big wins down the stretch that has Silver Creek in position for a potential bye in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament in two weeks.
Silver Creek (12-7, 8-2) dominated from start to finish Thursday night over the Niwot Cougars (12-8, 7-4) and won 61-26 in a game that puts the Raptors all alone in second place in the Northern League standings, with an outside shot of a league title..
“It felt great to come out and get a really big win,” Silver Creek’s Karson Hills said. “After an OK performance against Northridge, it just felt good to come out and play well.”
Thursday’s win was a far different outcome than when the two teams first met on Jan. 21 in Niwot. Silver Creek won 64-56 thanks to 30 points from Andrew Duquette, but no one else on the team scored more than eight points.
The collective team effort on Thursday resulted in 10 players scoring for Silver Creek, led by Duquette and Zach Noesen with 13 points. Hills came off the bench and led the second unit with 12.
Banning has used a platoon system to substitute his team during the season, playing five starters together for a period in a quarter and then subbing five new players to play together for long stretches. The platoon system was on full display against Niwot and both the starters and the bench contributed evenly when they were on the floor.
“We’ve been doing it for a little while now,” Banning said. “We were an inexperienced team to start the season with the exception of Andrew Duquette. I think they are growing into themselves after having some growing pains.”
Noesen got off to a fast start knocking three of his first four shots from behind the arc down with the starters to give Silver Creek the early lead. When the bench came in midway through the first, Hills hit a pair of 3-point shots that pushed the lead to 21-4.
“(Noesen) really got it going early and that set it up for the whole team,” Hills said. “Everyone was finding their stroke tonight.”
The starters and bench split time in the second quarter and shut down the Niwot attack, holding the Cougars to four points in the quarter again. Defensive traps and rotations behind them led to steals and breakouts for Silver Creek to score on, and the Raptors also won big on the boards holding Niwot to one shot for most of the night to build the big lead.
“Going 10-deep really helps us,” Banning said. “We can change our defenses up and do different things when we can bring a fresh crew in. It’s hard to coach against teams when you can throw different things at them.”
A trust found late in the season has Silver Creek playing its best basketball of the season, and with one week remaining, the Cougars hope to ride the momentum into the playoffs and make a run in the state tournament.
“We need to keep focus and do what we’ve been doing,” Hills said. “We need to be ready for each game and take it one game at a time.”
While it was not the best night for Niwot, Austin Rathburn was a bright spot with 12 points and eight rebounds to lead both teams in those categories. The Cougars will face Longmont, Centaurus and Mountain View next week to finish the season.