ERIE — Down 31-26 early in the second half, the Erie girls basketball team was looking for a spark similar to what it had to begin the game to get the lead back.
They found it in the third quarter, going on a big scoring run aided by a dominant performance in the paint and with a defense that started to contain the key players for the Fort Morgan Mustangs. It resulted in an 18-0 run in the quarter that helped push Erie to a 61-41 win on its home floor Thursday.
With the win, the Tigers improve to 7-2 on the season, surpassing their win total from the previous season.
"We worked hard tonight," Erie's Anna Hefner said. "We have put in a lot of effort and it's showing in practice through everything."
Erie came out strong to start the game with a 7-0 run but saw the comfortable lead disappear when Fort Morgan's leading scorer, Allie Christensen, came off the bench. The junior scored seven points in the first quarter and finished with nine points in the first half. As she started to find an offensive rhythm, Maddie Griffith and Lauren Keller began to contribute with her as well.
Griffith hit a 3-pointer and Keller made two free throws late in the first half to put the Mustangs in front 27-26. Destiny Pelton and Whitney Frasco each scored in the paint to start the second half, giving Fort Morgan its largest lead of the night at 31-26.
From there, the Tigers made their move.
Grace Moyers drove to the rim for a layup, and free throws from Edith Morrow and Sami Eribe quickly tied the game. Hefner put the Tigers in front with a shot at the rim — a theme that followed for a good stretch thereafter. Multiple shots in close piled on for the Tigers, resulting in the lead growing to double figures.
"There were a lot of different matchups," Hefner said. "(Fort Morgan) was a smaller team, and I felt we were a bit quicker and stronger. We just found a way to do it."
Five different players scored for the Tigers on the big run, all of which came in the paint or at the free throw line.
Meanwhile, the Tigers shut down Christensen in the second half and held her without a point in the final two quarters. Forced to have other players to score, the Mustangs turned the ball over and came up empty in multiple possessions as the Erie lead grew to 13 points late in the quarter.
"We were working hard the entire time basically," Hefner said. "We just kept it up and the other team started getting tired. That effort and intensity did it."
More work down low and at the free throw line saw Erie pull away for the 20-point win. Hefner led all scorers with 21 points and added 10 rebounds for a double-double. Moyers followed with 13 and Erbe added 11 off the bench.
Surpassing their win total from last season is not enough for the Tigers this year as they will try to add to their win total in league play moving forward.
"Our effort in practice is more straightforward and getting things done before anything else," Hefner said. "We need to try and get better on defense, have more communication and get some more shots up."
Erie 61, Fort Morgan 41
At Erie High School
FORT MORGAN (4-4, 1-1)
Whitney Frasco 4 2-2 10, Allie Christensen 4 0-0 9, Clementina Numeralangu 3 0-3 6, Maddie Griffith 2 0-0 5, Lauren Keller 0 5-8 5, Autumn Wheatley 1 2-2 4, Destiny Pelton 1 0-1 2.
ERIE (7-2, 2-0)
Anna Hefner 10 1-3 21, Grace Moyers 4 4-4 13, Sami Rebe 3 5-6 11, Lauren Kia 3 0-0 6, Deb Altshuler 2 1-3 6, Alyssa Barnett 1 0-0 2, Edith Morrow 0 2-2 2.
Score by quarters:Fort Morgan 10 17 6 8 — 41
3-point field goals — Fort Morgan (2): Christensen, Griffith; Erie (2): Moyers, Altshuler. Total fouls — Fort Morgan 16, Erie 17.