ERIE — While the Erie boys basketball team expected better things during the 2012-13 campaign after returning four starters from a year ago, the Tigers remained unsure what sort of progress they might make this season.
After all, Erie won just two games last season. The club simply does not boast any meaningful experience in the fine art of closing out a game.
Yet that may have changed somewhat on Friday. After rolling to a solid first-half lead against Centaurus, the Tigers displayed perseverance and gumption by answering every Warriors charge during the second half, paving the way for a 72-55 win.
With victories in their past two games, the Tigers already have matched last season’s win total.
“We took a huge step, because we talked about finding some guts,” Erie coach Tim Leahy said. “(Centaurus) made some little runs on us, but we weathered the storm and got going again. For our young team, that was huge for us to do that. It is a small step to win two games in a row, but honestly after looking at the schedule at the beginning of the year, we’re kind of where we thought we would be.”
Erie (2-3) took control in the second quarter, making 9 of 11 shots during the frame while knocking down all three of its 3-point attempts. The Tigers closed the first half with a 12-3 run, a burst highlighted by six consecutive points from Dylan Brink, to take a 34-20 lead into the break.
“We knew what they were doing and we had confidence we would make our shots,” Brink said. “Our coach is always telling us, ‘They’re going to make a run some time in the game.’ It’s whether or not we answer that determines the outcome. Tonight we answered that. It’s a good sign.”
Erie extended its lead to 16 points midway through the third quarter before Centaurus rallied behind the hot shooting of Steven Jordan (22 points) and Tony Aguirre, who scored 13 of his 15 points after halftime.
Aguirre scored eight points during a 10-2 Centaurus run that closed the third quarter, pulling the Warriors within eight points. Centaurus pulled within five points early in the fourth quarter before a 3-pointer from Erie sophomore Kyle Leahy quelled the Warriors’ momentum.
Centaurus (3-5) remained within eight points after a 3-pointer from Aguirre with a little more than 3 minutes remaining, but the host Tigers outscored the Warriors 12-3 the rest of the way.
Four players reached double-figures in points for Erie, led by 23 from Brink and 15 from Kyle Leahy.
“The first half, the second quarter in particular, we were taking quick 3’s,” Centaurus coach Brandon Gullicksrud said. “A lot of times quick shots and lackluster offense often times lead to easy hoops at the other end. That was the message at halftime. We challenged the guys to look to play more inside-outside. We closed the gap, but that second quarter really hurt us.”
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Erie 72, Centaurus 55
At Erie HS
Aguirre 5 0-0 15, Matosky 0 0-0 0, Puckett 1 0-0 3, Jordan 7 2-2 22, Milano 1 7-10 9, Esler 3 0-1 6, Koch 0 0-0 0, Wilkinson 0 0-0 0, DeVries 0 0-1 0. Totals 17 9-14 55.
Leahy 5 2-2 15, C. Brink 5 1-2 11, D. Brink 8 5-6 23, Baker 6 1-2 14, Melton 2 0-1 4, Tallman 1 0-0 2, Egan 0 0-0 0, Lucas 1 0-0 3, Charlesworth 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 9-13 72.
Score by quarters:
Centaurus 8 12 19 16 — 55
Erie 12 22 13 25 — 72
3-point field goals — Centaurus (10): Jordan 6, Aguirre 3, Puckett; Erie (7): Leahy 3, D. Brink 2, Baker, Lucas. Total fouls — Centaurus 14, Erie 18.