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Niwot's Brendan Gray drives to the hoop against Erie's William Campbell during the Cougars' 60-45 win Friday night.
Jeremy Papasso / Daily Camera
Niwot’s Brendan Gray drives to the hoop against Erie’s William Campbell during the Cougars’ 60-45 win Friday night.


NIWOT — Electric starts haven’t necessarily been the trademark of the Niwot boys basketball team, but the Cougars will take them when they can get them.

“We play a lot better when we have a lead,” Cougars senior power forward Justin Lee said.

Such was the case Friday night, when the Cougars leapt to an 11-0 advantage and held on for a wire-to-wire 60-45 home win against Erie. The 6-foot-4 Lee led the way with 16 points, helping the Cougars close the pre-break portion of the schedule by refusing to let Erie embark on a serious run.

“We tried our best to keep that lead as best we could, and even step on their throats in the second half,” Lee said. “We have a tendency to kind of let off the gas in the third quarter, but we definitely did a good job protecting the ball.”

Niwot will take a solid 5-3 record into the holidays after also getting 14 points from Jason Seper. The senior guard got the early rally started with three free throws after neither team scored for nearly the first three minutes.

The woes for Erie (3-4) continued for the opening 5 minutes, 40 seconds until Kyle Leahy canned a pair of free throws to erase the Tigers’ goose egg. Leahy finished with a team-high 16, but he had to scratch and claw for his points against a lively and opportunistic Niwot defense.

Alex Goodell added 10 for the Tigers, who never fully recovered from the early lull.

“We did that the first game of the year to start the month off, and we ended the month with an 0-11 start to the game,” Erie coach Tim Leahy said. “When you’re playing uphill all night, it’s just too hard. There’s really no game pressure on your opponent when you do that.”

Erie recorded two one-point wins in the past week, one against Centaurus, the other on Cameron McCurry’s winner against Fort Morgan. The Tigers are thankful to have risen to the occasion on those, considering where their record would be if those games had gone the other way.

The most entertaining sequence of this one came in the third quarter, when Lee had a ferocious block against Erie’s Andrew Campbell. Kyle Leahy then swatted a perimeter attempt by Niwot and took it the other way for a dunk.

The quarter as a whole belonged to Niwot, though. The Cougars outscored Erie 18-11 to stretch a 12-point halftime advantage to 19.

“They did some things different that we’re going to have to get used to,” Tim Leahy said. “They did a box-and-one on Kyle and obviously tried to take it out of his hands and put it in somebody else’s. And he’s going to have learn to deal with that.”

Niwot has nearly equaled last season’s win total under second-year coach Enoch Miller. The Cougars were 7-16 last season, but have won three of four entering the break. Northern League play begins Jan. 9 against Greeley Central.

The Cougars got some good energy off the bench from the likes of Jonathan Drake and Jared Hart, and timely scoring from Ryan Kannegeither and Brendan Gray.

“It was a good ending to the first (portion) of the season,” Lee said. “It was a good team effort. We all did a good job.”

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Niwot 60, Erie 45

At Niwot HS

ERIE (3-4)

Kyle Leahy 3 9-12 16, Alex Goodell 4 1-2 10, Andrew Campbell 0 1-2 1, Josh Meyers 1 1-2 4, Cameron McCurry 1 1-2 3, Bobby Bledsoe 3 1-1 9, William Campbell 0 2-2 2, Cody Hartkopp 0 0-0 0, Justin Boyle 0 0-0 0, Brevin Anderson 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 16-23 45.

NIWOT (5-3)

Justin Lee 7 2-4 16, Charlie Mitelhaus 0 3-4 3, Ryan Kannegeiter 1 4-6 7, Brendan Gray 3 0-0 8, Jason Seper 5 4-4 14, Trey Hill 0 0-0 0, Walker Bounds 0 0-0 0, Jonathan Drake 3 0-0 7, Jared Hart 1 3-5 5. Totals 20 16-23 60.

Score by quarters:

Erie 7 11 11 16 — 45

Niwot 12 18 18 12 — 60

3-point field goals — Erie (5): Bledsoe 2, Leahy, Goodell, Meyers; Niwot (4): Gray 2, Kannegeiter, Drake. Total fouls — Erie 18, Niwot 20. Technical fouls — A. Campbell.

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