YATES CENTER — No one on the Erie High School boys basketball team had even been born when the Red Devils last advanced to the state tournament. In fact, Bill Clinton had just taken office as President of the United States and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” topped the music charts back in March of 1993.
But Erie proved it belongs 27 years later with a decisive 65-44 win over Northeast Arma on Saturday night, which set off a wild on-court celebration between the team and the student body.
Erie head coach Nick Pfeifer stood back and soaked in the moment while holding his young child.
“This feels great,” he said. “These guys worked so hard for this and deserve this moment. This is a really big deal for this team and this school.”
The Red Devils (19-4) jumped out to a 17-2 lead following consecutive baskets from Tyler Pasquarelli. A 3-pointer from Matthew Vail made it 20-4 as Erie went into the second quarter with a commanding 22-6 lead.
The Vikings wouldn’t get within 13 points for the remainder of the contest. A basket by Pasquarelli midway through the fourth quarter gave the Red Devils their largest lead of the game at 61-35.
“Well, I was just really pleased with the way we attacked on both the offensive and defensive end,” Pfeifer said. “We led wire to wire throughout. I feel like the guys came in with the right approach to this tournament.”
The team had a balanced attack, scoring both inside and outside in the rout.
Mark Bogner scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the first half. He hit four 3-pointers in the win. Vail, who also hit four 3-pointers, finished the contest with 17 points.
Sophomore Eric Dillinger provided points in the paint with 13 on the game.
“We had good balance for the most part. Tonight was a good example of that. I felt that our guards did a good job of finding our bigs, and in return our bigs looked for our guards when they were open,” Pfeifer said.
Senior Caype Johnston provided some energy off the bench for the Red Devils, blocking several shots and getting a lot of rebounds when Dillinger was on the bench.
The Vikings tried to slow down the Red Devils using a full-court press defense, but it didn’t last long as Erie was able to beat it and get several easy layups.
Pasquarelli finished with seven points, Dawson Lehman had four points, and Ethan Bartholomew, Tyler Duling and Johnston finished with two apiece.
Erie enters the state tournament as the No. 4 seed and will face Sterling (19-4) in the first round Thursday afternoon at 4:45 pm in Manhattan at Bramlage Coliseum.
Pratt-Skyline (21-1) is the top seed and will take on Hillsboro (14-9) at 3 pm. The winner of these two contests will face off on Friday at 4:45 pm.