Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
BERTHOUD — Friday’s Class 4A Great 8 matchup between the Berthoud Spartans and Erie Tigers was a trilogy game that had the makings of a heavyweight title fight. Berthoud won the first meeting on its home floor and Erie came back and won the second at home in the regular season.
The third meeting at Berthoud High School had a bid to the semifinals hanging in the balance, and the fight lived up to the hype.
Erie (23-3) held a 30-29 edge at the half, and led by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter, but Berthoud (24-2) rallied in the final minutes and then pulled away in overtime to win 64-60 and eliminate the Tigers in the Class 4A state tournament.
“I thought we played extremely hard,” Erie coach Sarah Pfeifer said. “I thought for the most part we executed what we wanted to do.”
Berthoud came out with its press defense and forced some turnovers while leading scorer Emily Cavey gave them the first lead of the game. The Spartans were able to go up by as many as eight points in the second quarter and forced an Erie timeout.
Pfeifer was able to settle her group down, and they responded with a big run in the second quarter and took a late lead thanks to Genevieve Gudino making some big shots and a free throw that put the Tigers up 30-29 at the break. Gudino and company continued to find layups and open looks against the Berthoud zone and forced them to play man-to-man for more of the second half while going up by as many as eight points early in the fourth quarter.
“It’s always mental with this group,” Pfeifer said. “I kept preaching to them that we were going to win this game. We had to do the little things right.”
But Cavey and Berthoud would not roll over in the fourth quarter.
Berthoud went on an 10-0 run and took a slim lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Erie would respond and tie the game, and then got the ball with 30 seconds remaining. The Tigers went with screen concept, but Berthoud switched every screen and forced a tough contested shot that did not reach the rim to force overtime.
Cavey and Breanna Fowler helped Berthoud jump out to an early lead in the overtime period that was too much for a rattled Erie team to overcome.
“We’re young still,” Pfeifer said. “The majority of kids that were out there are still sophomores and a couple of juniors. When Gudino fouled out, we had a majority of sophomores on the court and they got scared.”
Erie also could not capitalize at the free throw line with everyone struggling to constantly make those shots. The Tigers were just 5-of-15 from the line in the first half and finished 10-of-23 for the game.
“We spent at least 10-15 minutes of practice yesterday at the free throw line,” Pfeifer said. “I knew it was going to be very important, but you can’t simulate a student section screaming their heads off.”
Gudino led the Tigers with 17 points and Alyssa Barnett had 10 in the loss.
The tough ending is one that Pfeifer hopes the players returning will use as fuel for next season, but did not want it to dampen what the team was still able to accomplish this season.
“Let it hurt tonight, but next Friday we’re going to celebrate a great season,” Pfeifer said.