Making a claim for No. 1

SILVER CREEK – The way Silver Creek (13-0, 8-0) head coach Rob Genco was talking after his team’s 81-72 win over CCAA Division 2 foe Salamanca (6-7, 3-5), one would have thought the Black Knights’ perfect season had come to an end.

“I’ve been trying to switch it up defensively,” Genco said. “Trap a little more, press a little less, try a little zone (defense), more man … I’m trying to find the right recipe for us defensively. We let up 72 this game. Against Frewsburg, we let up 55 … 79 at Randolph. We’re averaging 80 points a game, but we need to score 80 points a game, because we wouldn’t win if we weren’t scoring.”

Down by 15 with 5:45 left in the third quarter, Salamanca began to chip away at Silver Creek’s lead, getting it down to seven as the teams headed into the fourth quarter.

“I think they’re frustrated like I am,” Genco said of his team’s defense. “I don’t think they know what the recipe is yet either. The only way to fix it is to go back to work. And what that does, hopefully, is they’ll focus more when we’re practicing.”

Salamanca kept the pressure on Silver Creek in the fourth, as Jared Fish scored eight of his team-high 26 points, but it was a pair of 3-pointers – one by Jarron Ball and another by Tadd Beattie – that kept the Warriors in the game.

“That’s a team, that if they can start firing on all cylinders, nobody is going to beat … Nobody,” Genco said. “So, I’m not surprised that Tanner (John) came out and did what he did and the Fish kid did what he did. He’s had 20 the last couple of games, so I’m not surprised that they scored points. I just didn’t think that we’d let up 72 points.”

Ball’s trey cut the Black Knights’ lead to 70-67 with just more than four minutes left in the game while Beattie’s got the Warriors to within four, 74-70, with just more than two minutes left in regulation.

“Usually teams play us zone (defense), but Silver Creek played us the majority (of the game) man-to-man with a little bit of zone in between,” Koscielniak said. “We beat them on the zone with some of our shots. Some of them fell, but not enough.”

However, as they did all game, the Black Knights had an answer for whatever the Warriors threw at them, as they outscored Salamanca, 7-2, to close out the final eight minutes.

“They’re 13-0 for a reason,” Koscielniak said. “Because they know how to win games and pull it out in any way.”

After a slow start that saw Silver Creek fall behind, 7-2, early in the first quarter, the Black Knights began to play at their accustomed pace, building a 25-20 lead after the first, due in large part to eight points from both Bill Brooks and Steve Marcey.

“They’re tempo works,” Koscielniak said of Silver Creek. “And they have nice kids. They play six kids and they can keep that tempo up all game. They finish their shots.”

Brooks kept it up in the second quarter, scoring 14 points, helping the Black Knights to a 46-34 lead at the break.

“We tried to do our best,” Koscielniak said of his team’s ability to guard Brooks. “But when he gets the ball above his head he’s (6-foot, 8-inches), 6-9, 6-10. It’s a hard matchup for even Jared Fish who’s 6-4.”

A big reason the Warriors were able to shrink Silver Creek’s lead in the third, was the fact that six players scored at least one field goal, as they outscored the home team, 22-17, in the third.

“It wasn’t going to be easy,” Koscielniak said of whittling away Silver Creek’s lead. “It wasn’t going to be 10 points, because we’re not that type of team that can score points in bunches.”

Of the 81 points the Black Knights tallied, a game-high 27 were scored by sophomore Brooks, who finished with a triple-double after grabbing 12 rebounds and swatting away 10 shots by the Warriors.

“He’s being more aggressive offensively,” Genco said. “And he’s always, defensively, given us those double-digit blocks, which is invaluable. To get that out of a kid … That’s 10 possessions. That’s 20 possible points. To have that is invaluable what he did (Friday). He can do it every night. He’s that good and he’s only getting better. Even though he’s a 10th grader, he’s a guy we count on to get us victories.”

Brooks added five steals and four assists while Kaine Kettle chipped in 20 points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals. Also for the Black Knights, Williams, who was honored before the game for scoring 1,000 points in his varsity career, finished with 11 points, eight assists, eight steals and seven rebounds.

“Zeddie will feed guys all day if that means winning the basketball game,” Genco said. “He’s unselfish and then when he thinks he needs to put the buckets in for us, or if we’re struggling and he has to get involved by scoring, he does. It’s something I don’t have to coach. He knows when to turn it on and when to turn it off. He leads the team in assists. I think he’s at six a game and he led us in assists again (Friday).”

NOTES: Marcey finished with 12 points … Brennan White added 11 points, six of which came in the fourth quarter, for the Black Knights … Tanner John chipped in 17 points in a losing effort for Salamanca.