ERIE — Coming into the 2018-19 season with a young and unknown roster following a six-win campaign, the Erie girls basketball team was surrounded by question marks in November.
The Tigers were certain of one thing, though. They were going to spend the winter making sure they had left an impression by spring.
With just two seniors on the roster, the Tigers won 14 regular-season games and earned the right to host a playoff game. In the first round of the Class 4A state tournament at Erie High School on Tuesday night, they won 52-22 over Longmont and advanced to the second round for the second time in the past three seasons.
"Our goal this season was to make ourselves known," Erie freshman Grace Moyers said. "Everybody graduated last year and nobody knew us so we just wanted to be known. We feel like we've done that and tonight we just came out with confidence, played well, played hard and got a win."
As the No. 21 seed hosting the No. 44 seed, Erie (15-9) was the obvious favorite against Longmont (10-14) on its home court. The teams had also shared a season opener with one another on Nov. 28, a game that Erie won by 18 points. With Longmont already facing an uphill battle, Trojans senior forward Ashley Dillow was injured during pregame warm-ups and could not play in Tuesday's playoff game.
The Tigers, however, hit the ground running on their home floor.
Erie senior Lauren Kia scored the first seven points of the game on her own, pacing the Tigers to a 13-2 lead after the first quarter. Kia and Kaitlyn Patterson, the Tigers' lone seniors, tied for the game high with 10 points apiece.
Holding the Trojans to single digits in every quarter and eventually their lowest scoring output of the season, the Tigers led 24-9 at halftime and 35-17 after the third. Though they hadn't made a 3-pointer going into the fourth, the Tigers hit four long balls to clinch the victory with a 17-point final frame.
"We knew that we had improved a lot but we also knew that they had, too," Erie head coach Sarah Pfeifer said. "We'd seen some film on them so we knew they were down a couple kids. My kids didn't play their best but they played really hard. We looked really good in spurts but they always responded when I told them they needed to get refocused."
Erie will play No. 12 D'Evelyn (18-5) on the road in Denver this Friday. The Tigers lost 52-45 to D'Evelyn on Dec. 15, but Patterson was out with an injury and Moyers played through the flu during that game.
"They're a good team but it's a good matchup and I think we have a chance to win," Pfeifer said.
Despite Tuesday's season-ending loss, the Longmont girls' 2018-19 season was one that began as a trial but developed into something of a triumph.
The Trojans have not made it past the first round since they reached the Final Four in 2015. Opening the season at 1-5 and later 2-8 through the first five weeks of the season, it appeared they may not even make it into the postseason field for the first time in recent memory. But the Trojans went 8-5 over their final 13 regular-season games and fought their way into the playoffs.
"We came together at the end and made it to the playoffs, and I think that's way more than anyone thought we could have done," Trojans senior point guard Tara Hitchcock said. "Yeah, it was a rough start to the season. But we pulled together and we stuck through it. Especially not really having any games where we had a healthy roster, we all stepped up when we needed to. We took leadership and playing as a team to another level.
"Being together and playing our best together was what got us this far."
Erie 52, Longmont 22
At Erie H.S.
Sanchez 0 0-1 0, Wetterstrom 4 1-2 9, Hitchcock 3 2-9 8, Wormke 1 0-0 3, Marshall 0 0-0 0, Carson 0 2-2 2, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Lee 0 0-0 0, Ashton 0 0-0 0, Ingvaldsen 0 0-0 0. Totals 8 3-12 22.
Patterson 4 0-0 10, Moyers 1 3-4 6, Erbe 0 0-0 0, Kia 4 2-3 10, Barnett 1 3-4 5, Hefner 3 3-5 9, Morrow 0 0-0 0, Altshuler 3 0-0 7, Welty 2 0-0 4, Chambers 0 0-0 0, Benninger 0 1-2 1, Hill 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 12-18 52.
Score by quarters:Longmont 2 7 8 5 — 22
3-point field goals — Longmont (1): Wormke; Erie (4): Patterson 2, Moyers, Altshuler. Total fouls — Longmont 19, Erie 17.