ERIE — Two of the hottest teams entering the Class 4A state basketball tournament squared off Tuesday night in the Sweet 16, as the No. 5 seed Erie Tigers had won their last 13 games and the Glenwood Springs Demons were winners of their last 15.
On Tuesday, it would not be a close contest as Erie delivered a message with a dominant performance.
The Tigers came out running and gunning versus the Demons and built up a big lead in the first half that led to an 86-54 win to advance to the Great 8 on Friday.
“It was great,” Erie’s Deb Altshuler said. “Our team worked really well together. We talked beforehand and said we needed to work as a team and play for each other. We did that tonight.”
Erie (23-2) scored the first six points of the game and went on an extended 15-7 run to start. When Glenwood Springs (21-4) used its press defense, the Tigers split defenders and raced down the court to get layups inside. A heavy dose of layups forced the Demons to clog the paint on players driving to the rim, and that led to open 3-point shots from the guards, who were able to knock them down consistently in the first half.
Altshuler led the early attack with a pair of 3-pointers and was complemented by Grace Moyers to help Erie put up 30 points in the first quarter, one point more than Glenwood Springs allowed to Lewis-Palmer in its playoff win last week.
“It was a great start,” Erie coach Sarah Pfeifer said. “We came out sharp and focused and knew our game plan. We were executing well.”
More scoring came in the second with Erie continuing to run for layups and also finding the open player in half-court sets. Altshuler, Moyers Genevieve Gudino and Edie Morrow all provided steady scoring from the perimeter and also found Anna Hefner, Alyssa Barnett and Ava Welty inside in the post for easy looks. The shots continued to fall, and Erie ended the first half shooting 60 percent from the field and sitting well in control with a 55-23 lead.
“We knew we needed to run the floor and get good shots,” Altshuler said. “We were able to do that. I was feeling pretty good. We had a lot of practice beforehand and our team got a lot of good shots.”
The big lead allowed Erie to play more conservative at times in the second half while still finding opportunities to run and score in order to maintain its comfortable lead. A steady attack saw six players finish in double figures, led by Altshuler and Moyers with 18 points each and Morrow with 17.
Confidence shooting from the field this season has come with another year of experience under the belt of an Erie team that is still starting three juniors and two sophomores, a year after four of those five starters played big minutes to help Erie get to the Sweet 16 and the other, Gudino, helped Holy Family reach the Final Four last season.
“There’s been a whole lot of player development and maturity,” Pfeifer said. “We play seven kids and they give us slightly different things, but they are seven kids that would be starters on any other team in the conference for sure… We’ve got a ton of shooters and they shoot a good percentage, and when you’re shooting a good percentage and getting that winning going, you get this can’t miss mentality and that’s where we are.”
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s game, the team cut down one of the nets to celebrate their Tri-Valley League title they shared with Berthoud and Holy Family during the regular season.
Having won big in their first two playoff games this season, the team hopes to have a bigger celebration down the road, and they will look to take the next step to that in the Great 8 on Friday to try and advance to the Denver Coliseum next week.
“We ran the floor really well, and that’s what we want to keep doing,” Altshuler said. “We want to hit those shots and play for each other. That’s what is going to help us (to advance).”