By CONOR NICHOLL
Last season, Erie girls lost three of its first five games and stood at 3-5 after Jan. 20. That included December losses to Uniontown (39-25) and Humboldt (45-31).
Then, the Red Devils, with lone senior Molly LaForge, played stronger down the stretch. Erie finished 15-8, considered by many an overachieving season. Erie was a win away from its first state berth since ’02, according to Kansas historian Carol Swenson.
Erie outscored its opponents by a collective plus-13 margin for the winter. The Red Devils had a unique statistical split. Erie finished 8-0 in games decided by eight points or fewer, including three by a combined six points. All of the Red Devils’ losses were by at least 12 points. LaForge won the team’s Red and Black award as voted on by the coaching staff, an all-encompassing honor.
This winter, a more experienced Erie squad has continued its streak of winning close games – and already flipped two results from last winter behind a massive defensive improvement. Under second-year coach Sindy Daniels, Erie has allowed .40 points per possession, which is a state championship level statistical defense.
SIK has long tracked per-possession numbers. Three of the 2A girls’ 2020 Forever Four teams, WaKeeney-Trego, Garden Plain, and undefeated Spearville, made complete statistics available at the end of last winter. Spearville was at .52 points permitted a possession. Trego, long known for defense, checked in at .53. Garden Plain delivered .66.
Erie is 5-0 and captured the Humboldt tournament. The Red Devils collected a 32-29 double overtime victory versus Uniontown on Dec. 10. The following day, Erie beat Humboldt, 30-28, in the finals.
Erie girls, with five seniors, opened the season unranked by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. The Erie boys were ranked ninth in 2A in the preseason. In the Dec. 22 poll, the Red Devil girls bumped into the rankings at No. 10. Erie boys are up to fifth and stand 5-0.
Erie boys also captured the Humboldt championship with a 47-42 final win versus the host Cubs. That marks Erie’s only game within single figures. Erie boys have six seniors, including its top-two scorers with Mark Bogner and Dawson Lehman. Bogner averages 17.4 points per game, and Lehman has 12 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Last winter, Kramer earned team MVP, all-league and honorable mention all-state after 11.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per contest, all team-highs. She notably had a double-double in the sub-state semifinals. Ryleigh Brant collected Erie’s Hustle honor, and Sarah Stark had the Most Improved award.
Last winter, Erie averaged 66 possessions per game. The Red Devils scored .64 points per possession and allowed .63. Erie delivered a block on 6.7 percent of possessions and steals on 16.8 percent of possessions.
This season, Kramer has again been one of the state’s best rebounders and shot blockers. She paces Erie with 10.2 points, eight rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. Kramer averages 2.6 steals per contest, one of four Erie players with at least 2.6 steals a game.
Senior Skylar Clevenger has 9.6 points and paces Erie with 4.2 assists and 3.2 steals. Stark has improved and posted a solid line with 4.6 points and 5.2 rebounds as a junior. Additionally, sophomore Mia Pemberton has 3.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 steals. Brant, a junior, has averaged 3.6 points and 2.6 steals a contest.
Erie has very slightly improved its offensive efficiency to .66 points per possession. The Red Devils have 60 possessions per contest. The defense has made huge gains. Erie has blocks on 13 percent of possessions and steals on 26 percent. The Red Devils lead Kansas with eight blocks per game, according to MaxPreps statewide lists. Erie has key games on Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 versus Caney Valley and power Eureka.
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