ERIE — Everyone had this one circled on their calendars … in big red ink.
Both Holy Family and Erie had points to prove on Wednesday night in an early battle for the top spot in the Tri-Valley League.
Holy Family entered at 4-4 against a schedule as tough as anybody in the state. The home-standing Tigers, currently ranked No. 4 in the latest CHSAANow.com Class 4A poll, came in with a sparkling 9-0 record and were sitting at No. 2 in the very early RPI rankings.
Making the rivalry even more juicy was Genevieve Gudino. The now Erie junior, who transferred from Holy Family after leading the Tigers in scoring and was granted the right to play by the state association.
Holy Family built a big first half lead, weathered the Erie run at the end of the third and early into the fourth and then hit their free throws down the stretch for an impressive 53-44 road win.
“The defensive effort for our kids was just outstanding,” said Tigers coach Ron Rossi, who busted out the dancing shoes in the post game locker room celebration. “What’s going to happen is that each team has its own identity and this identity of this team is that we can play defense.
“I think this was the first game I’ve coached where we never pressed, but I felt like all that time in December playing good teams really paid off.”
In the early going, Holy Family stymied Erie with its defense and frustrated them into committing fouls on both ends that added up. The Tigers limited Gudino, who came in averaging nearly 15 points per game, to just 1-for-4 shooting in the first half and just two points.
“The momentum was really with us for a little while there and they got into foul trouble,” said junior Tyler Whitlock, who scored 14 of her 16 points in the first half. “This was a fun one for the whole team, we’ve been looking forward to this all week and it was good to finally get it done.”
Erie, down by as many as 15 points early in the third quarter, finally started to find their stroke from the outside. Sophomore guard Grace Moyers hit six second half three-pointers — including three straight early in the fourth quarter, with the final one cutting the lead to 37-36 with 4:26 to play.
But they would get no closer and Holy Family would go on an 8-0 — all at the free throw line — run after that Moyers make to put the game away.
As big as Whitlock was in the first half, junior Alyssa Wells was in the second half. She finished with a game-high 26 points, including going 14-for-19 from the line — including 9-for-11 in the fourth quarter.
Was it one of the more gratifying wins for Rossi in his illustrious coaching career?
“Yeah, just because they were 9-0 and everybody was counting us out, that we didn’t have a good team this year,” he said. “I knew we had a good team and we want to get back to the Final Four and the team that improves the most is going to get there.
“This was just a good stepping stone and you have signature wins and this is the first big signature win for this team.”
With the spotlight on her, Gudino finished with 11 points on just 3-of-12 shooting — including 1-for-7 in the fourth quarter.
“She’s a really good player and we just tried to control her. They have four really good individuals and we knew defensively we had to shut down two of them,” Rossi said. “If you can do that, it’s going to give you a good chance to win.”
Said Whitlock of facing her former teammate: “It was a tough blow when she left our team, but it was fun to kind of show her what we can do even without her. Because she wasn’t our whole team, although she was a big part of it, we can show that we are just as good without her.”
The Tigers will play their third straight game in as many nights on Thursday at home (on the finally finished floor) against Roosevelt at 5:30 p.m.
Things didn’t go as well for the boys in the nightcap. Erie jumped out to a 16-4 lead in the first quarter and then rolled to a 71-48 victory.
(10) HOLY FAMILY 53, (4) ERIE 44
Holy Family (5-4, 3-0) 14 9 10 20 — 53
Erie (9-1, 2-1) 4 6 16 18 — 44
Holy Family — Tyler Whitlock 7 1-3 16, Dylan Sanders 0 3-7 3, Noelle Gardon 0 4-6 4, Alyssa Wells 4 14-19 26, Cecelia Aanerud 1 2-4 4, Daniella Hren 0 0-0 0, Makenna Bertsch 0 0-0 0, Jaelen Giron 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 24-39 53.
Erie — Grace Moyers 7 1-2 21, Genevieve Gudino 3 5-9 11, Deb Altshuler 1 0-0 3, Alyssa Barnett 1 0-0 2, Edie Morrow 1 0-0 2, Ava Welty 0 0-0 0, Anna Hefner 2 1-2 5, Kalyssa Berringer 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 7-13 44.
3-pt. goals — Holy Family (5): Wells 4, Whitlock; Erie (7): Moyers 6, Altshuler. Total fouls — Holy Family 15; Erie 25. Fouled out — Altshuler, Barnett.