Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
ERIE — The girls basketball program at Erie is headed to high school’s version of the “Sweet 16” for a second straight year, albeit with different expectations.
“We were pleased we upset somebody to get (to the round of 16) and just pleased to be there last year, whereas our goal is to get to the (Denver) Coliseum and try to win a state championship this year,” said Erie coach Sarah Pfeifer after her fifth-seeded team in the Class 4A bracket beat No. 37 Longmont 79-45 in the second round of the 4A state tournament Friday night.
“It’s a very different mindset, and with the new mindset comes a lot of confidence.”
Anna Hefner led four players in double figures with 19 points for the Tigers (22-2). The one-two backcourt punch of Genevieve Gudino and Grace Moyers added 15 and 12, respectively. And Alyssa Barnett threw in another 10 as 4A’s second-highest scoring squad exploded for 71 points through three quarters en route to their 13th straight victory.
Tuesday, Erie will host No. 12 Glenwood Springs in the round of 16.
“I think the expectations are a little higher,” Hefner said. “Just thinking that we’ve been together a longer time. We have more chemistry. We know we can make it further than the Sweet 16.”
Jordynn Lee, meanwhile, capped off an impressive career encapsulated by her meteoric rise from freshman C-team player to the team’s leading producer as a senior. She had 15 points for the Trojans in the loss, while fellow-classmate Jenna Johnson had nine.
Freshman Christine D’Epagnier added seven points in another promising outing for one of the future faces of the program. Junior Sarah Wormke also had seven.
Three days ago, Longmont (11-14) avenged an early-season loss to D’Evelyn with an upset over the 28th-ranked Jaguars in the opening round.
“This program is on its way back up to where it belongs on the top of 4A at some point,” Longmont second-year coach Wade Kingsbury said. “I told every kid who plays for me, you’re getting a call when I think we’ve arrived at that level again. Because they’re setting the foundation to let kids like Christine know it’s not just enough to be good, you have to put in the work.”
The Trojans rallied out of a 9-0 deficit behind the deep ball, with D’Epagnier, Lee and Johnson all hitting behind the arc in a span of 1:45 to get within three — 22-19 — at the start of the second quarter.
Then Erie struck. Defensively prowling, offensively relentless — again and again — outscoring the Trojans 25-8 over the final 6:19 of the half to go up 47-27. Its 47 points at the break bested almost half the scoring averages in 4A this season.
Up 35, a running clock was put into effect with 6:24 remaining.
“They’re good,” Kingsbury said. “They play with a swagger and a confidence. It doesn’t matter if they’re freshmen or sophomores or juniors or whatever. They play a lot of basketball … they ball.”
The Tigers reached the round of 16 last year as the 21 seed following a six-win season in 2017-18. With another year of seasoning, and the addition of Gudino, the Tigers secured the fifth seed and a first-round bye after winning a share of the 5A/4A Tri-Valley League.