Devils down Erie, advance
GYPSUM – It’s time for Eagle Valley boys basketball to bring out the slingshot because Goliath is next for the Devils.
Eagle Valley, ranked eighth in its region, took care of Erie, 45-36, Wednesday night in the first round of the state playoffs in Gypsum. Next up is a trip to D’Evelyn, one of the top-two seeds in the tournament, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“They’re a fantastic ball club, no doubt about it,” Devils coach Jim Bair said. “We’re the long shot. We’re the underdog. We have nothing to lose. The whole world thinks we’re going to lose. That’s fine. We have no pressure.”
In the meantime, the Devils expunged the memories of playoff loss last year to Wasson – Eagle Valley had a bye through the first round and lost in the second – and very much enjoyed hosting their first playoff game since moving up to Class 4A in 2004.
“It’s big. We didn’t want to lose another playoff game,” Devils senior Sam Lounsberry said. “Now we get to go back to the second round and see what we can do.”
Very little has come easily to the Devils (16-7), and Wednesday was no exception. The Tigers, a team that went from two wins in 2011-12 to 10 this season, gave Eagle Valley all it could handle.
The Devils were up just 28-26 heading into the fourth quarter. Ayren Hart, who led Eagle Valley with 16 points, started the final stanza with his second three-point play of the game. Erie’s Dylan Brink answered with a 3-pointer as he ended up topping the Tigers with 15.
Lounsberry put back his own miss with 4:06 left in the game for 33-29 lead. Blake Baker, one of only two seniors on Erie’s roster, pulled the Tigers to within 33-31, and then Eagle Valley went to the line over and over.
It wasn’t particularly pretty as the Devils finished 11-of-21 from the charity stripe, but Lounsberry was clutch in that stretch, going 6-for-6. Also very big was Devils senior Jordon Hudspeth. He had a steal and a layup with 47 ticks to go to make it 41-33. He also added another icing bucket in the final seconds.
“They did what they needed to do in the final minute-and-a-half of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter,” Bair said. “That’s how we can play.”
Erie put a serious scare in the Devils with a 9-0 run in the third quarter. The Tigers’ Dylan Brink scored all seven of those points via a 3, a field goal and two freebies. Kyle Leahy had the other field goal. Tied at 26, Hart finally restored order with a hard-charging layup, followed by a running jumper from Lounsberry.
The Devils got off to a slow start with the visitors taking a 7-2 lead on a Baker 3 with 5:53 to go in the first quarter. Eagle Valley seemed to find its groove going to a full-court press.
That pressure gave produced consecutive baskets from Travis Edgar, Lounsberry and Baca for an 8-7 lead. And the defense certainly did its job in the second quarter. The Devils held the visiting Tigers to just six points in that frame, often limiting Erie on the boards.
On the offensive end, Hart got going with consecutive baskets, followed by one from Noah Ejnes. With 3:03 left in the half, Hart popped a three-point play for a 19-13 lead. Not to be outdone, Lounsberry finished the half with four-straight points for a 22-13 lead at the break.
Erie finishes the season at 10-14, but it would not be surprising to see the young Tigers back in the postseason next year.