LAFAYETTE — In the first quarter of its game Thursday night, Erie found out it would be in a fight with Greeley West at the Centaurus Warrior Classic.
Five lead changes and a physical display brought out the best from both teams during the night. But in the second quarter, Erie made an adjustment to build a lead the Tigers would hold the rest of the night on their way to winning 65-54.
The adjustment Erie (4-0) made was switching to a 2-3 zone in the half court, which forced Greeley West (3-1) to try and make some shots from the outside rather than try to bully its way inside like it did in the first quarter.
“It was a physical game, and we struggled with that a little bit,” Erie coach Sarah Pfeifer said. “We went zone and tried to pack it in. That worked for a while.”
Erie scored the first eight points of the second quarter to go up by seven. Once the team got the momentum, they switched from full-court man-to-man pressure and the half-court zone. Both proved effective in holding Greeley West to eight points in the quarter and to allow Erie to go up by 12 at the half.
The defense brought new life to the team, and it led to the offense settling in and handling the pressure from Greeley West and finding good looks to score.
“We quit trying to dribble through the press,” Pfeifer said. “We started passing through it. That got us some easy shots.”
Grace Moyers and Deb Altshuler hit some shots from behind the arc to space the floor for Erie. When the openings presented themselves, they worked in low, whether it was their bigs Ava Welty, Alyssa Barnett or Anna Hefner, or penetration from guards Genevieve Gudino and company on cuts to the rim.
Thursday marked the third straight game Erie scored more than 60 points, an area the team is comfortable with so far in the young season.
“We’re pretty good on offense,” Pfeifer said. “We have seven kids that can score. Most teams have two or three max. It’s just making sure that we’re taking the best shot and not just a good shot. I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
Erie held steady in the third quarter until a small run by Greeley West cut the lead to seven, but late buckets from Barnett, Gudino and Welty pushed the lead back to double figures going into the fourth. The lead would remain there with the Tigers going up by as many as 19 in the fourth.
Six players scored for Erie in the win, led by Moyers and Gudino from their guard spots. Gudino was the top scorer with 19, getting all of her points from the paint and the free throw line. The transfer from Holy Family has brought new life to the Tigers, according to Pfeifer.
“Her basketball IQ is as high as anyone I have ever coached,” Pfeifer said. “She has that swagger when she walks on the floor. Our team was young last year, and they didn’t have that confidence yet because they had not been there yet. Now they are a year older and have her as a leader to lead by example. They’ve caught on and it makes a big difference.”
Moyers hit three shots from 3-point range to finish with 18 and Barnett made six free throws to score 11 to see Erie have three players score in double figures.
The No. 10 ranked Tigers will return to Centaurus for the championship game Saturday and to try and keep the early momentum of the season with another win.
“We’re going to get more cohesive as the season goes on,” Pfeifer said. “To do what it takes to win four times in a row is a great start.”