Up and in

Eric Dillinger goes up strong versus 6’6” Tyus Wilson in a 2A State playoff game. The Red Devils advanced to the state playoffs for the first time since 1993.

KSHSAA cancels tourney

after quarterfinal games



MANHATTAN – Erie fans were jubilant and optimistic as the Red Devil faithful cheered midway through a Kansas 2A state high school basketball playoff game Thursday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum. Even on a grim day filled with news of professional and collegiate sports leagues postponed and cancelled due to the spread of the Coronavirus, it was exciting that the 2A team, advancing to the state playoffs for the first time since 1993, were close to advancing to the semifinals.

It was announced Thursday the state playoffs are also cancelled after the quarterfinals due to tue Coronavirus. 

On a shiny, 94-foot Division I basketball floor with several championship banners hanging in the rafters, the No. 4 Red Devils fell short to the No. 5 Sterling Black Bears 64-54. Making their mark in the contest were junior swing player Dawson Lehman with 15 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block, senior Matthew Vail with 15 points, two rebounds, a block and a steal, and 6’5” sophomore big man Eric Dillinger with nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

On the defensive end, however, Erie couldn’t contain All-Heart-of-America 6’6” junior Tyus Wilson. He finished the contest with an unusual double-double: 27 points on nine-of-16 shooting, five of nine from downtown, and four of five free throws, plus 10 blocks and nine boards. Other All-HOA players Brady Myers, a senior, put up just four points and senior Logan Weigel scored five. Wilson’s length and shooting ability – the All-League player drained five of the seven 3s for Sterling – presented too many problems for the Red Devils, Erie head basketball coach Nick Pfeifer said. 

“Obviously his length, and it’s not just his length that makes him good; it’s his skill and his ability to shoot it along with it, and he can, and he shot it well tonight and I thought we guarded him pretty well, but he was able to put some points up for them and that was big for them,” Pfeifer said.

The Red Devils were big in the first half — with a 22-point first quarter — which was a clear sign Erie had a legitimate shot to advance to the quarterfinals. Vail, a returning All-Tri-Valley League player, hit an and-one basket in the paint and followed up the shot with a made free throw, making the score 24-22 with 4:42 to go in the first half. Several plays following Wilson hitting a 3 gave the Black Bears the lead, then junior guard Tyler Duling hit a layup to make the score 30-29 with 10 seconds to go in the first half and that was the score at the break.

Unfortunately for Erie, it was the last time the Red Devils led. Right out of the gate in the third, Wilson stroked a long 3, snatching a 32-30 Sterling lead early in the third quarter. He would go on to contribute one more 3 in a 12-2 run, which put the score to 41-32 with 3:51 left in the third quarter.

“Obviously they were scoring and we weren’t, and if you’re going to give up baskets, which you never want to do obviously, then you’ve got to be able to knock some in on your end, and I just thought we went through a little bit of a tough stretch there, and they took advantage and they were able to finish the game out like good teams do,” Pfeifer said. 

Still, the Red Devils didn’t take a bus 200 miles to get walloped. Erie fought to within six points after Dillinger scored a basket to put the score at 46-40.

Continuing to be aggressive, Wilson muscled up an and-one basket, and after sinking the free throw, his Black Bears would extend to a 49-40 lead with 6:30 to go in the fourth.

Giving Erie a chance in the end, Wilson committed his fourth foul with 5:54 left, promptly giving 11th-year Sterling head coach Derek Schneider no choice but to substitute him out. It still didn’t matter, as Weigel stroked a 3 from the corner, upping the score to 52-42 with five minutes to go.

By the time Wilson came back into the game, the score was 54-45. He didn’t foul out until there were 14.9 seconds left in the game. Sterling had a 62-53 lead, and was primed to move on to the semifinals.

Galvanizing his team to a potential comeback due to his series of midrange shots, layups and two 3s, Lehman said he wanted to maintain his aggressiveness.

“I was mainly looking to drive and try and create something, and hopefully get double-teamed and look for one of my teammates, and if I’m open, pull the trigger and look for a shot,” he said.

Schneider said he used the same formula with Wilson, which has been working all year.

“We don’t really run a lot of stuff for him. I’m not a huge sets guy; we just run our half-court offense most of the time and then we just talk about if he has a good matchup, then we’ll just say look at him on the curls and the backdoors. Sometimes we’ll put him in the post if he’s got a really good matchup, but I feel like any time you say, ‘Let’s do this, do this, do this,’ I just feel like our guys don’t play as free. We don’t do a lot of that, we focus on the defensive side with Tyus.”

Wilson was just as much of a problem for the Red Devils on the defensive end as the offensive end. On several occasions, Wilson planted himself in the paint or just outside of the paint to effectively use his length to block Dillinger or any perimeter player going for an easy basket.

This presence in the middle forced Erie to shoot more 3s and shots from the outside – the Red Devils were two of 11 from deep – for 38 percent shooting versus 46 percent for Sterling. Sterling was also rewarded more at the free-throw line thanks to their aggressive play to the rim, shooting 62 percent (15 of 24) from the line, while Erie was six of 11.

Despite falling short in a state playoff game, Pfeifer said this trip to Manhattan will set the culture for Erie for years to come.

“I’m proud of our guys and they should be very proud of themselves. I thought we did have a good year, I thought we played well today, but we struggled in some areas that were key for us. They did a good job defensively, and it was mostly because of them,” Pfeifer continued. “But I’m proud of our guys. They should be so proud. We never want to be satisfied and we’re disappointed and I know our guys would love to be playing tomorrow and Saturday. And that was the ultimate goal, and I thought we prepared for it. But it didn’t happen.”

Erie (19-5) will prepare for next season without Vail, Tyler Wimp and Caype Johnston due to graduation, while Sterling (20-4) was to play No. 8 Hillsboro (15-9) in the 2A state semifinals before the tournament was cancelled. 


No. 1 seed Parsons was upset by Rose Hill in the 5A bracket.


Class 2A

State Quarterfinal

Hillsboro 57, Pratt Skyline 50

Sterling 64, Erie 54

Class 4A

State Quarterfinal

Augusta 53, Ottawa 41

Rose Hill 61, Parsons 57

Class 6A

State Quarterfinal

BV Northwest 55, Lawrence Free State 48

Olathe South 50, KC Harmon 43



Class 1A

State Quarterfinal

Centralia 48, Cunningham 46

Olpe 59, Norwich 43

Class 3A

State Quarterfinal

Cheney 66, Phillipsburg 53

Nemaha Central 45, Osage City 35

Class 5A

State Quarterfina

McPherson 59, Basehor-Linwood 44

St. Thomas Aquinas 62, Maize South 35

Recommended for you

Load comments