CHERRYVALE — In what has become one of the most heated rivalries in the Tri-Valley League, the Erie Red Devils avenged its first loss of the season with a 61-60 overtime win over the Cherryvale Chargers thanks largely to a 33-point outburst from sophomore Eric Dillinger.
Erie trailed throughout the first three quarters, never taking a lead until late in the fourth quarter.
“Our guys continued to believe and fight,” Erie head coach Nick Pfeifer said. “We had to go get stops. We chipped ourselves back into the game and survived some runs.”
But it was Dillinger’s 33 points in the post that proved overwhelming to Cherryvale. The sophomore’s career night came on 14 field goals and 5-of-10 shooting from the charity stripe.
“He probably could’ve had 40,” Pfeifer said. “We knew getting him the ball was working for us. We were struggling with shooting from the outside. So he just finished plays and got after the offensive glass. I’m glad he was on our team tonight.”
Dillinger also exposed a fear for Cherryvale — its depth in the post following a season-ending injury to Kolbyn Hooper. Landon Bennett was largely ineffective for the Chargers while Jacobi Barnett fouled out of the game.
“His injury hurt our depth,” Cherryvale head coach Aaron Rehmert said. “So we cannot get in foul trouble. That forced us to put some younger guys in the game. That’s tough against a strong league opponent late in the game. So we’ve got to go back, look at the tape and figure out where we can be tougher defensively.”
Cherryvale got its own hot-shooting night from star guard Gavin Hooper, who had 25 points in the loss.
“Every time we called a play for him, he came out and knocked it down,” Rehmert said. “He’s such a competitor. He hates losing. He gave it his all tonight. I’m super proud of him. I know he’ll rally the troops.”
In two games this season, Cherryvale and Erie won one game apiece, both by one point.
“They are a very good team,” Pfeifer said of Cherryvale. “Every single time we play them, it’s like this. It’s been like this for a few years. So it’s always a big game.”
“I thought we played hard,” Rehmert added. “It looked like we were out of it a few times late in the fourth quarter and overtime. But obviously we’ve got to be tougher on defense. We didn’t have an answer for Dillinger. We’ve got to go back to practice and figure that out.”
With the loss, Cherryvale dipped to 11-3 on the season and 2-1 in Tri-Valley League play. The Chargers face Fredonia on the road on Friday.
“We’ve got to have short term memory,” Rehmert said. “We’ll learn from this loss and prepare for Fredonia.”
As for Erie, it returns to the friendly confines of its home gym on Friday to host Bluestem. The Red Devils improved their record to 11-3 overall and 2-1 in league action.
“They’re a tough team because they can shoot the basketball really well,” Pfeifer said. “Their 1-3-1 zone will cause us problems if we’re not ready for it, and we’ve got to be ready to guard.”
Erie 61, Cherryvale 60 (OT)
Erie: 9 11 12 21 8 — 61
Cherryvale: 13 11 12 17 7 — 60
Erie: Matthew Vail 7, Mark Bogner 2, Caype Johnston 3, Garrett Ruark 4, Eric Dillinger 33, Dawson Lehman 12
Cherryvale: Landon Bennett 5, Devin Sawyer 13, Zaine Lantz 13, Jacobi Barnett 2, Gavin Hooper 25, Briggs Adkison 2