PAUL AIKEN
Erie’s Dylan Brink shoots a free throw Friday at practice. The Tigers open the season Tuesday at Centaurus.

Tim Leahy hopes that last season is the only time in his coaching career that he’ll experience a 500 percent increase in wins.

If you quintuple your win total, you see, it means you didn’t win that many the season before. Erie’s ascension from two wins in 2011-12 to 10 last season was a refreshing burst for a team trying to make its way in Class 4A, but the Tigers will be satisfied with incremental progress from here.

Another eight-game increase would put the Tigers in elite company in their fourth year in the classification, but despite returning his entire starting lineup, Leahy doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.

“To go from 10 to 18, that’s a big jump,” Leahy said. “Now you’re talking about maybe a different jump than going from two to 10. We feel good about the direction we’re going and I hope the trend continues, but I don’t know if there’s a number that necessarily we’re putting out there.”

The Tigers finished 10-14 overall last season and accomplished two significant benchmarks. They were 7-7 in Tri-Valley League play — it was their objective to become competitive in the league — and qualified for the 4A postseason. They lost 45-36 at Eagle Valley in the first round, but their inclusion in the tournament signaled progress.

Erie was at its best when sharpshooting guards Dylan Brink and Kyle Leahy were drilling shots from the perimeter, and each is back and amped to keep intact the trend upward.

“This is the first year we’ve had a lot of seniors, so we’re really trying to set the standard high for the program as it continues,” said Brink, who averaged 13.4 points a game last season.

Brink converted a team-best 48 3-pointers last season, one more than the 6-foot-4 Leahy, who led the Tigers with a 15.5 scoring average. Each of them endured the two-win season and experienced the diametrical change in vibe last season.

“It was huge for our confidence,” Brink said. “Being able to win and have the feeling of a win does amazing things for you. You learn to finish games, and that’s really going to help us this year.”

In addition to Leahy and Brink, the Tigers return big men Jesse Tallman and Reece Melton. Brink’s brother, Coltin, also fits into the starting lineup as a guard but might begin the season as a reserve. He injured his knee late in the football season and will ease his way back into big minutes while sharing time with Joel Smith.

Tim Leahy pointed out that teams often fit into their new classification by their fourth year, and this is the Tigers’ fourth season up from 3A. Sure enough, they appear on the verge of settling in.

“We return six of our top nine, so it’s nice to have that type of experience,” Leahy said. “But the biggest thing is this group, they’ve only been in our (coaching) system, so that’s even nicer. We’ve raised them the way we’d like for them to play and with the fundamentals we’ve tried to emphasize.”

The Tigers will be at Centaurus High School plenty in the early going. They open against the Warriors on Tuesday night then will be back Dec. 11-14 for the Boulder Valley Invitational. Erie’s home opener is Dec. 17 against Weld Central.

“We’re all physically there and just ready to work so we can get the best results possible,” Dylan Brink said.

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