By CONOR NICHOLL
Sunday will mark one calendar year since Erie boys last lost a regular season game.
Erie went 21-2 last winter and 9-0 this year. The Red Devils have reached the state tournament the last two seasons, the first ones since 1993, per Kansas historian Carol Swenson. It marks Erie’s first back-to-back appearances since 1976-78. Erie lost in the quarterfinals both years in close contests.
Erie has not lost a regular season game since a 49-38 loss to Riverton on Jan. 23, 2021.
Erie has not dropped a Tri-Valley League contest since an 81-62 loss to Caney Valley on Feb. 21, 2020. Erie has tenth-year coach Nick Pfeifer, along with key seniors Eric Dillinger, Garrett Ruark and Ethan Bartholomew.
This season, Erie is ranked seventh in a deep Class 2A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. Class 2A has the most undefeated squads on both the boys’ and girls’ sides.
The top-10 in 2A boys are Hillsboro, St. Marys, Valley Falls, Ellinwood, Wabaunsee, Lyndon, Erie, WaKeeney-Trego, Jefferson County North and Cedar Vale/Dexter.
In the Dexter sub-state, Cedar Vale/Dexter stands at 8-0. WaKeeney-Trego is 9-0, Ellinwood is 11-0, Erie has a 9-0 mark, and Valley Falls is 10-0. Defending champion Hillsboro is 10-0, per KSHSAA records.
In 6A, the lone undefeated teams are Dodge City (10-0) and Lawrence Free State (5-0). Andover Central is the lone perfect team in 5A West (7-0). Buhler is 7-0 and the only undefeated squad in 4A.
Class 3A has four undefeated teams. In the Nickerson sub-state, Cheney (10-0) and Hesston (8-0) are both perfect squads. Osage City (10-0) and Royal Valley (9-0) are perfect sub-states.
Erie paces the Uniontown sub-state that also includes much-improved Pittsburg Colgan (6-2), along with Southeast-Cherokee (4-2), Jayhawk-Linn and Yates Center, both 5-4.
In Class 1A, Division I, No. 1-ranked Montezuma-South Gray is 10-0. Osborne stands at 10-0, and Norwich is 11-0. In Class 1A, Division II, Hanover stands at 9-0, and Tribune-Greeley County is 10-0.
Last winter, Dillinger was an honorable mention all-state selection when he averaged 15 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. Dillinger is a 6-foot-6 senior and the lone returning starter. Ruark and Bartholomew were key reserves last winter.
This season, Dillinger has put up huge numbers with 14.9 points, 13 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 blocks a contest. Bartholomew paces with two steals a contest, along with nine points, 3.1 rebounds and two steals a contest.
Ruark has 12.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and two steals a game in the team’s most recent statistical release. Overall, Erie has seven seniors who see playing time, including 6-foot-4 Rylie Hays, Caden Eads, Riley Ewen and Omar Hernandez.
Erie opened with a 55-52 win against Southeast-Cherokee. After two blowout victories, Erie defeated Humboldt, 37-29 and had a 56-48 win versus Cherryvale.
On Jan. 11, Erie beat Caney Valley (55-45) and earned a 67-55 win versus Parsons in its last contest. On Friday, Erie is scheduled to play Columbus.