ERIE -- Playing in her first postseason game as a starter, Erie junior Serena Gudino was determined to make it a good one.
She did just that on Tuesday night, scoring a game-high 18 points to lead the Tigers to a 42-40 victory over visiting Widefield in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.
"To be able to contribute to my team in a playoff game, I'm really blessed," said Gudino, who finished just one point shy of her career high. "I was ready to go. My goal was to make it to the first playoff game and win it."
The victory didn't come without some stress.
Erie (14-10) never led by more than six and had to play to the final buzzer to knock off the Gladiators (11-13).
The Tigers, in fact, went to the free throw line twice in the final 13 seconds in one-and-one situations to try to extend their lead and missed both free throws. But, the first miss was followed by a Widefield turnover. On the second, with four ticks on the clock, the Tigers' Piper Zeier snagged the rebound and ran out the clock.
"It wasn't one of our best performances, but we managed through it," Erie head coach Noel Potter said. "We didn't take advantage of their mistakes whatsoever. We went ahead and turned around and make our own, especially on defense. Girls in the wrong position way too much."
Widefield had 28 turnovers, 17 of those on Erie steals. Despite that, the Tigers let the Gladiators hang around.
Widefield's Angelina Smith scored eight of her 14 points in the final 3:25 of the game, and teammate Kelsey Scurek drained two 3-pointers in the final quarter. All of those buckets came to Potter's dismay, as his players didn't defend to his liking.
The Erie head coach was pleased, however, to see several of his players step up at crucial moments. In addition to Gudino, Amanda Ochoa battled through illness to score eight points, dish nine assists and pick up six steals.
"When she realizes, 'I'm not hitting it,' she works hard on the assists," Potter said of Ochoa, who made just three of 13 shots. "That was a lot of easy points down under the bucket (for the Tigers)."
Gudino benefited from several of those assists, scoring 13 points in the second half.
"I love contributing to this team, especially with someone like Amanda," Gudino said. "I appreciate the assists, because she knows what she needs to do in the game. I had a ton of fun."
Kenzie Kudrna had just five points, but all of them came in the second quarter to give the Tigers a two-point cushion at halftime. Zeier added five points and nine big rebounds.
Erie now moves on to the second round, where it will face Sand Creek (19-4) on Friday night.
Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.
Erie 42, Widefield 40
At Erie HS
Kelsey Scurek 3 0-0 8, Cailtin Peters 0 0-0 0, Breasha Short 3 1-2 7, Haley Armstrong 0 0-0 0, Meaghan Mahoney 1 3-6 5, Alyssa Pickens 0 1-2 1, Auneccia Chatman 1 3-4 5, Angelina Smith 6 2-2 14, Logan Prater 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 10-16 40.
Lauren Bauchert 0 0-0 0, Haley Gallagher 1 2-3 4, Myranda Kraus 0 0-0 0, Amanda Ochoa 3 2-6 8, Amberlyn Purcell 1 0-0 2, Kenzie Kudrna 2 1-2 5, Alyson Romey 0 0-0 0, Serena Gudino 7 2-3 18, Chelsea Martus 0 0-0 0, Tanya Campbell 0 0-0 0, Piper Zeier 2 1-2 5. Totals 16 8-18 42.
Score by quarters:
Widefield 7 7 8 18 -- 40
Erie 9 7 10 16 -- 42
3-point field goals -- Widefield (2): Scurek 2. Erie (2): Gudino 2. Total fouls -- Widefield 17, Erie 13. Fouled out -- None. Technical fouls -- None.