Ranked No. 2 in Class 2A in the state and fresh off securing the Tri-Valley League title, the Erie Red Devils boys pulled away late from the Cherryvale Chargers in their regular season finale on Friday to win 53-42.
Despite leading by as much as 14 in the first half, Erie’s lead evaporated completely when Cherryvale tied the game at 40-40 late in the third quarter.
But the Chargers were limited to two points in the final period, giving Erie enough breathing room to secure the win.
“That’s just something we pride ourselves is defense,” Erie head coach Nick Pfeifer said. “Offense comes and goes. It came in the first half and it went in the second. So we’ve got to be steady on the defensive end and we got the stops we needed.”
Cherryvale head coach Rodney Vigil cited effort on the glass for the stagnant offense late.
“That’s why the ball is round,” Vigil said. “Sometimes you can’t control whether it goes in or not. I thought we had good looks. But we didn’t hit the offensive boards as well as I had.”
Postman Eric Dillinger led Erie with 18 points.
“He works hard on his game and is a good player,” Pfeifer said. “It’s easier to be consistent inside. But he’s playing well and aggressive. That’s what I’m most happy with.”
Kolbyn Hooper, another post, led the Chargers with 17 points.
“Erie does a great job and they’re a very disciplined team,” Vigil said. “Their players understand their role. We didn’t do things consistently tonight that we had been doing in the last few weeks.”
While Friday’s game was virtually meaningless on paper, the win for Erie secured an 18-1 regular season record and gave the Red Devils one more dose of momentum heading into next week’s sub-state tournament.
“It always feels good to beat Cherryvale,” Pfeifer said. “We wanted to play well going into next week. That was important to us.”
Cherryvale finished the regular season with a 13-5 record. The Chargers will face Columbus in the first round of their Class 3A Sub-State on Tuesday. Cherryvale is the second seed in the bracket.
“Columbus is a young team that plays hard and defends well,” Vigil said. “We’re in a loaded sub-state. I like our draw and our path. But there are no easy paths in there.”
Erie, the top seed in its Class 2A bracket, will host Northeast on Monday. With a league title to its resume this year and a state tournament berth a year ago, the Red Devils are the on-paper favorite to make a return trip to state.
“Those expectations are weighing and are a part of it,” Pfeifer said. “We want to play hard. If we’re able to focus on that, what’s supposed to happen will. So we’ll play the right way. If somebody beats us and we did those things, we can be OK with that.”
Erie 53, Cherryvale 42
Cherryvale: 12 12 16 2 — 42
Erie: 25 9 8 11 — 53
Erie: Mark Bogner 8, Tyler Duding 9, Tyler Pasquarelli 10, Dawson Lehman 4, Garrett Ruark 4, Eric Dillinger 18
Cherryvale: Landon Bennett 6, Kolbyn Hooper 17, Devin Sawyer 7, Stetson Schafer 4, Briggs Adkison 6, Rayden Wright 2