ERIE — The scare was so brief that it might not have qualified as a scare at all.
At least not to Kyle Leahy.
Leahy and his Erie basketball teammates never could fully shake Niwot on Thursday night, although the final few minutes were comfortable for the Tigers in a 52-40 home win in the Class 4A non-league game.
There was a point in the contest, however, that Niwot was storming back. The Cougars (3-5) got a basket from Charlie Mitelhaus in the third quarter that trimmed the Erie lead to a mere two points at 30-28.
“I honestly never knew it got down to two,” Leahy said. “Our confidence let us believe that we could stretch it back out again. They make their run and we make ours.”
Erie (5-1) indeed made its run in immediate fashion. Reserve Andrew Campbell nailed a 3-pointer and Dylan Brink hit another the next time down, and all of a sudden the advantage was eight again.
The Tigers cruised from there on a night when Leahy recorded team-bests of 17 points and 11 rebounds, part of a plus-20 effort on the boards by the home team.
“That was big,” Leahy said. “Before the game we talked about rebounding and blocking out because this was one game we didn’t have a size advantage on the other team, so we had to play fundamental defense. . . . (The rebounding advantage) does surprise me, but it means we did what we came here to do.”
All of that was a delight to coach Tim Leahy, who knows he has gifted scorers in the younger Leahy and Dylan Brink (16 points). Five players corralled at least five rebounds, including Jesse Tallman (eight) and five apiece by Campbell, Dylan Brink and point guard Coltin Brink.
“The two things we emphasized in the summer were defense and game management,” Tim Leahy said. “We did that so we make right decisions if we get down late in games, or to try to keep the clock moving if we’re up and just make smart decisions at the end. So far in the games in December, that’s paid off.”
Erie’s lone loss was a one-point decision to Centaurus in the semifinals of the Boulder Valley Invitational, a Warriors squad they had handled rather easily in the season opener. The BVI was tough on Erie overall, as Tallman, Campbell and Reece Melton endured ankle injuries and reserve point guard Joel Smith suffered a badly sprained left wrist.
Smith was still out Thursday but suited up so he could remain closely connected to his team.
A fellow reserve, the 6-foot-5 Campbell drilled two 3-pointers and had a solid game off the bench with nine points.
“For a kid who’s 6-5 he’s really a good 3-point shooter,” Tim Leahy said. “He had 11 points last game and he’s been good coming off the bench.”
Clarke Colwell led Niwot with 11 points, including three 3-pointers. The Cougars have lost three of four entering the break but are making headway under new coach Enoch Miller.
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Erie 52, Niwot 40
At Erie HS
Lee 1 7-11 9, Drake 1 0-2 2, Kolokowski 2 1-2 5, Colwell 4 0-0 11, Gray 1 0-0 3, Mitelhaus 2 2-8 6, Bounds 0 0-0 0, Hill 0 1-2 1, Kannegeiter 1 0-0 3. Totals 12 11-22 40.
Leahy 4 7-11 17, C. Brink 0 3-5 3, D. Brink 4 6-6 16, Melton 0 0-0 0, Tallman 0 5-8 5, Berringer 0 0-0 0, Campbell 3 1-2 9, Egan 1 0-0 2.. Totals 12 22-32 52.
Score by quarters:
Niwot 4 13 14 9 — 40
Erie 7 14 15 16 — 52
3-point field goals — Niwot (5): Colwell 3, Gray, Kannegeiter; Erie (6): Leahy 2, D. Brink 2, Campbell 2. Total fouls — Niwot 22, Erie 19. Fouled out — Gray, Leahy.