ERIE— A solid season on the hardwood ended on a sour note for the Erie Red Devils in Thursday night's 54-18 loss to the St. Mary’s-Colgan Panthers.
Playing host to the KSHSAA Class 2A Sub-state Tournament, the third-seeded Red Devils had their season ended by the seventh-seeded Panthers in the semifinals.
Erie (13-9) opened the contest ice cold, missing their first 10 shots from the field. The Panthers capitalized, parlaying the Red Devils' shooting woes into a 13-0 blitz.
The Red Devils broke through in the final minute of the opening frame via Reid Duff's knifing lay-in through heavy traffic to trim the deficit to 11. Erie was unable to gain their offensive footing and trailed 26-5 at the half.
The outlook didn't get any rosier in the third as the Panthers' advantage swelled to 43-8 at the conclusion of the quarter. The final frame was played with the turbo clock activated as St. Mary’s-Colgan (9-11) coasted to victory.
"We got beat. That's just part of it," summed up first-year Erie head coach Wes Leach.
Leach said that the season ends in disappointment for the vast majority of teams.
"Ninety-percent of teams get beat to end their season," Leach explained with a Yogi Berra-esque quip. "And unfortunately, we were one of those 90 percent."
Leach said that the game-plan was to “play our game.”
“Stick to what we know, stick to what we’ve done all year,” he said. “Yeah — that was our game-plan.”
Leach said his club’s game includes being fundamentally sound and playing tough defense.
“We play with some pack-line principals,” he said of a defensive scheme that emphasizes ball-pressure while also looking to prevent post-entry.
“We look to really help each other defensively,” he said. “Offensively, we look to share the ball quite a bit.”
Leach offered a blunt assessment of Erie’s sluggish start to the game.
“I mean, we were cold and they played well defensively,” “It usually results in something like that.”
After reviewing countless hours of game-film, Leach indicated that the plan was to feed the rock to star forward Ethan Dillinger.
“We have an inside guy, that when he plays well — he’s hard to stop. So we were trying to get that,” Leach said, as Dillinger concluded the contest with 3 points on a 1-of-9 shooting performance. “They are a pretty long and (lanky) team, and sometimes it’s hard to do that.”
Leach said he was pleased with the overall results of his first season at the helm.
“You’re talking about a team that lost 95 percent of its offensive production and was a league champion last year,” he said. “Our record wasn’t as good, but we were still co-league champs. A lot of kids stepped up and did good things.”
With Dillinger and Duff leading the way, Leach believes the prospects are bright for the 2023-24 campaign.
“We’re returning pretty much all of our scoring. I would say the future is bright — it’s only up from here,” he said. “We’re going to work hard over the summer and try to get better.”
In the other semifinal matchup, No. 4 Richmond-Central Heights sprung the upset of top-seeded Cherokee-Southeast, 67-60.
St. Mary’s: 1311 19 11 — 54
Erie HS: 2 3 3 10 — 18
Erie: Reid Duff 7, J.J. Ethan Dillinger 3, Eli Montee 5, Gavin Reesig 2, Logan Ewan
St. Mary’s: Tristan Voss 11, Tucker Harrell 10, Coline Hite 7, Jack Schremmer 7, Joe Lomshek 4, Klayton Adamson 4, Gus Keller 3, Connor VanBecelaere 3, Cooper Simmons 2, Byron Lopez 2, Carston Simmons 1
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