LAFAYETTE — Pardon Erie basketball players for being a bit uncomfortable Friday night when Centaurus guard Steven Lopez launched a last-second shot.
The Tigers already had witnessed 13 Centaurus 3-pointers spellbindingly splash through the net, including five by Lopez.
But this one rimmed out, and Erie had a thrilling 60-59 win on the Warriors’ home court in the Boulder Valley Invitational semifinals.
“That scared me when it went up,” Erie forward Andrew Campbell said. “It was way too close. It hit the rim, and I didn’t like that very much. It was too close to tell if it was a foul, but I’m glad they didn’t get the call.”
Erie (2-2) will take on Mead in the tournament championship game Saturday, a Mavericks squad that won in similarly thrilling fashion with a 52-51 triumph against Thomas Jefferson.
Centaurus (2-2) contended that Lopez, who scored a game-best 27 points, was fouled on his final attempt. A video review of the play indicated that it was a good no-call, with some contact coming after the shot was released, but not enough for which to decide a game.
Campbell scored 16 of his Tigers-best 20 points after intermission, helping to spark a late rally that finally overthrew Centaurus’ long-range efficiency. The Warriors nailed six 3s in the first quarter alone, when guard Logan Platt connected on three of his four for the game.
“Maybe it was bad coaching, because I kept thinking they were going to miss as the game went on,” Erie coach Tim Leahy said. “They started off hitting 3s, then it worked the other way on me because they just got more and more confident as the game went on.”
Erie (2-2), though, had what it takes to trump a solid perimeter game: Size. The 6-foot-6 Campbell had help down low from 6-8 sophomore Cameron McCurry (10 points, nine rebounds), and Tigers point guard Kyle Leahy created some mismatches of his own with his 6-4 frame.
After trailing for most the night, Erie surged ahead 57-51 with the fourth quarter winding down. A 3-pointer by Erie’s Bobby Bledsoe, one of only two for the Tigers on the night, made it 53-51 and looked to be the signature shot of the night after Erie ballooned the lead to six.
Not to be outdone, Lopez nailed consecutive 3s from the left wing to tie it 57-57.
Campbell drilled 3 of 4 free throws in the final two minutes to put Erie back in front 60-57. Centaurus’ Mike Loftus scored an inside bucket with 24 seconds left to trim the deficit to one, then the Warriors had one final chance after Erie missed a pair of free throws.
“One of the things we told the kids is that it’s really black and white what shows up in the box score, it’s either win or lose,” Centaurus coach Brandon Gullicksrud said. “But this is the best game we’ve played all year, offensively, defensively, as a whole body of work.”
For Erie, winning a close one with a youthful group carried a lot of weight.
“It’s just about getting better each game right now in early December,” Tim Leahy said. “Even though I didn’t feel like we played great, I feel like we got better because there were a lot of struggles tonight. Mentally, I thought that was big for us.”
The Tigers are just hoping they won’t have to overcome 13 3-pointers on a regular basis.
“That was impressive,” Campbell said. “Every team has their runs, but I didn’t expect that from them. They shot well and you have to hand it to them, but I’m just glad we held in there.”
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Erie 60, Centaurus 59
At Centaurus HS
Kyle Leahy 3 6-10 12, Alex Goodell 4 1-2 9, Andrew Campbell 8 3-4 20, Josh Meyers 2 0-0 4, Cameron McCurry 5 0-0 10, Bobby Bledsoe 1 0-0 3, William Campbell 0 0-0 0, Cody Hartkopp 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 10-15 60.
Logan Platt 5 0-0 14, Steven Lopez 10 2-3 27, Anthony Ongrodnick 2 0-0 6, Mike Loftus 1 0-0 2, Mike DeVries 2 0-2 5, Nick Inslee 1 0-0 3, Shayne Albertson 0 1-2 1, Kyle Bedford 0 1-2 1. Totals 21 4-9 59.
Score by quarters:
Erie 18 8 1816 — 60
Centaurus 18 13 15 13 — 59
3-point field goals — Erie (2): A. Campbell, Bledsoe. Centaurus (13): Lopez 5, Platt 4, Ongrodnick 2, DeVries, Inslee. Total fouls — Erie 11, Centaurus 16. Fouled out — DeVries. Technical fouls — Erie, Coach Leahy; Centaurus, bench.