ERIE -- While the Erie boys basketball team posted a critical win on Tuesday, the Tigers did so despite uncharacteristic struggles at the free-throw line.
Erie more than made amends in that department on Friday.
Led by sophomore Kyle Leahy and junior Joel Smith, the Tigers put together a free-throw-shooting display that was both torrid and timely, paving the way for a 63-48 victory against Skyline in a Tri-Valley League showdown.
The win was the second in a row for Erie on the heels of a three-game losing streak, and it keeps the Tigers locked in a battle with Mead for the No. 4 seed out of the Tri-Valley. Although Erie defeated Mead Tuesday to split the season series, Mead currently holds the tiebreaker over the Tigers by virtue of its win earlier this season against Windsor.
Erie (10-12, 7-6 Tri-Valley) can really make things interesting if it can knock off Windsor on the road in its regular season finale on Tuesday.
"I guess the basketball gods were with us, because the other night we were 5 of 15 from the line," Erie coach Tim Leahy said. "It was not a good night. Tonight, I guess the basket looked big from the free-throw line. Joel hit a lot of big free throws. I'm real happy with our guys. We slowed it down late in the game to try and take (Skyline) out of their run, and I thought that worked."
Erie went 21 for 25 from the free-throw line, including a 14-for-16 performance in the final frame that turned a two-point game early in the fourth into a comfortable win for the Tigers.
Most of that work was produced by Smith and Kyle Leahy. Leahy made all 10 of his free throws while Smith went 9 for 10 -- a mark he produced entirely in the fourth quarter to help Erie pull away.
"We shoot free throws for more than 10 minutes every day at practice," Smith said. "I'm just confident with it. I haven't been shooting great with them over the year, but I knew I'd make them."
Skyline was cold out of the gate, missing its first seven shots, but the Falcons roared back into the game behind a 13-0 run. Skyline took its first and only lead on a short jumper by Colton Dabney early in the third quarter, and the Falcons remained within two points early in the fourth.
Erie, however, outscored Skyline 20-7 the rest of the way, at one point scoring eight consecutive points all on free throws by Smith and Leahy. Leahy knocked down four 3-pointers and led all scorers with 28 points. It was the fourth time in eight games Leahy has scored at least 23 points, a stretch in which the sophomore has averaged 19.4 points a game.
Dabney, the Falcons' leading scorer, was held to 10 points while battling through a sore knee, yet he remained a force at the defensive end by finishing with six blocked shots and five steals. Luciano Quesada led Skyline with 11 points.
"Their run didn't really faze us. We just put together a run of our own," said Kyle Leahy, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. "That's how you do it to close out the game. If they put you on the line, you have to hit them. That's what we did."
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Erie 63, Skyline 48
At Erie HS
SKYLINE (6-16, 3-10)
Mandrell 2 5-6 9, Forsyth 0 2-4 2, Quesada 5 0-0 11, Anthony 4 2-2 10, Dabney 4 2-7 10, Soriano 1 0-2 2, Mansanares 0 0-0 0, Stuvel 2 0-0 4. Totals 18 11-21 48.
ERIE (10-12, 7-6)
C. Brink 2 1-3 5, Leahy 7 10-10 28, D. Brink 3 0-0 7, Melton 1 0-0 2, Tallman 1 1-2 3, Baker 4 0-0 9, Egan 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 9-10 9. Totals 18 21-25 63.
Score by quarters:
Skyline 13 15 11 9 -- 48
Erie 20 11 12 20 -- 63
3-point field goals -- Skyline (1): Quesada; Erie (6): Leahy 4, D. Brink, Baker. Total fouls -- Skyline 20, Erie 13. Fouled out -- Forsyth.