ERIE — This time of year, the wheels on the bus go round and round — a lot.
And while some parents and administrators might gripe about the thought of having to travel to the Western Slope for a playoff basketball game in the middle of the week, coaches and players love it.
Just ask Erie coach Liz Russell and her Erie Tigers.
After drawing the 37the seed in the Class 4A tournament, her team had to make a trek over the hill to play No. 28 Glenwood Springs in the first round of the Rhonda Blanford-Green Region.
"It helped us because all day we were 100 percent focused on the game and while we were on the bus we knew what we had to make happen," said Russell, whose team will get a second round rematch with Tri-Valley League foe Windsor on Friday night at 6:30 p.m.
"It gave us plenty of time to get there and prepare mentally, physically and emotionally ... all those things that are important, especially for girls high school basketball."
Erie (11-13) entered the state tournament on a three-game losing streak and a team bonding trip might very well have been the perfect thing to redirect their focus.
The young Tigers jumped out to an early lead against the Demons and made an 11-point halftime lead stand up for 46-38 win. Junior McKayley Green scored 14 pounds and pulled down 12 rebounds in the win. Sophomore Kaitlyn Patterson had 12 points and junior Jade Phillips had 10 points and nine rebounds.
"We knew that we have been struggling to put together four quarters and really do what we can consistently and we knew that was going to be a key," Russell said. "We knew that if we did our job that we would come out with a win."
The Tigers are excited about their chance to face Windsor for the third time, knowing that even though they have suffered two double digit losses to the Wizards — including a 58-46 setback on the final game of the regular season last Thursday — the gap has narrowed and they come in with momentum.
"We couldn't have gotten a better matchup in regard to, it's hard to beat a team twice and its even harder to beat a team three times," Russell said. "We don't have to spend a lot of time analyzing film because we've already done it all season long.
"We know what they have and they know what we have, but if you really look at it, we have the upper hand in this situation."
Elsewhere in Class 4A, Russell's old team at Centaurus will hit the road for a trip to Palisade to take on the 14th-seeded Bulldogs. The 19th-seeded Warriors (18-6) got 15 points from senior Brooke Jones in an opening round win over Lewis-Palmer.
Eighth-seeded Holy Family will have a big challenge on its hands against No. 25 Mullen. The Mustangs, who Tigers coach Ron Rossi praised early in the season and rightfully so, beat the Tigers 52-42 on the opening night of the season.
In Class 5A, the BoCo region will have at least one team advance to the next round.
A Front Range League rematch will have No. 10 Monarch, and its roster of seven, host No. 23 Fairview on Friday night. The Knights beat the Coyotes 49-47 in mid-January, but it was one of the eight games Fairview forfeited after the discovery of an internal issue.
Legacy's first round escape of Pomona earned the No. 28 Lightning a trip to No. 5 Fruita Monument for a date with the Southwestern League champion Wildcats. No. 27 Broomfield will travel to Fort Collins to try and avenge 22 point loss to No. 6 Fossil Ridge.
In Class 2A, Lyons is the top seed in the District 7 tournament at Frederick, The Lions have pressed on — despite the loss of Taylor Christiansen to a hip injury in January — to a 17-3 record and will face Union Colony Prep, a team they beat by 22 earlier this year, on Friday at 7 p.m.
In Class 3A, Jefferson Academy is still alive in the Metropolitan League tournament at Manual High School and will have a chance to place fifth in the tournament. Two more wins would go a long way in helping the Jags (14-7) secure a spot in the field of 32.