BROOMFIELD — Raise your hand if you saw that coming.
Sure the seeding told you that Holy Family was supposed to be the favorite on Wednesday in the Class 4A Sweet 16 against Abraham Lincoln, Denver’s league runner-up. But the basketball purists around the state had tabbed the Lancers as a darkhorse in the 4A tournament and many were sure they were going to throw a wrench in the Tigers playoff plans.
But on the strength of a huge 14-0 run in the third quarter, the Tigers flexed their muscles and beat mighty Lincoln 64-54 to advance to the Great 8 on Saturday against Tri-Valley League rival Mead.
“That was awesome and I’m just proud of our kids and happy for our kids,” said Tigers coach Pete Villecco, whose team improved to 21-4 overall. “They deserved that. They competed hard for 32 minutes.”
The athletic Lancers showed off their quickness and ability to get to the rim early, jumping out to a quick 7-2 lead.
“But we just never panicked,” junior guard Dominic Nellis said.
No they didn’t. The teams went back-and-forth throughout the first half, with neither able to create much separation.
That was until the third quarter, when thing began to click on all cylinders for the Tigers. Sparked by the quartet of Nellis, Tanner Baird, Adam Jolly and Kyle Helbig, Holy Family went on a 14-0 run that culminated in a Baird 3-pointer that nearly blew the roof off the place.
It put the Tigers up 47-30 and had the Lancers in a hole they had rarely faced this season.
“We have a lot of guys that have played in a lot of big games and they know it is about runs,” Villecco said. “Our guys just don’t blink. They turned the defensive heat up in the fourth quarter though.”
The Lancers didn’t fold up the tents. Instead they responded with a run of their own in the fourth quarter, 9-0 to be exact, behind Kwaheem Brown, a big 3-pointer from Josh Perez and Ty Foster to cut the Tigers lead to 54-49 with 2:04 to play.
“Coach always tells us to weather the storms,” said Nellis, who was one of four Holy Family players in double figures with 13. “I just kept telling the guys to weather the storm and don’t get down, we can come back, because we have a run in us too.”
Indeed they did. The Tigers closed on 10-4 run to salt it away and went 11-for-11 from the free throw line in the final eight minutes to do so.
Baird scored 11 of his game high 17 in the second half. Helbig and Jolly each finished with 15 well-earned points in the paint.
The Tigers will face Mead for the third time on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. Holy Family lost both games to the Mavericks this season, by five points at home and by eight at their place. Mead took care of Coronado 71-48 on Wednesday night.
(4) HOLY FAMILY 64, (13) ABRAHAM LINCOLN 54
Abraham Lincoln (18-7) 14 11 7 22 — 54
Holy Family (21-4) 14 14 19 17 — 64
Abraham Lincoln — Jahqual Veazy 1 0-0 3, Tijani Bamba 4 6-6 16, Kwaheem Brown 5 0-0 12, Ty Foster 5 1-2 11, Josh Perez 1 0-0 3, James Felton 3 3-4 9, Ricardo Torres 0 0-0 0, Fabio Rodriguez 0 0-0 0, Dail Gomez 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 10-12 54.
Holy Family — Dominic Nellis 5 3-3 13, Kyle Helbig 7 1-1 15, Zach Becker 0 0-0 0, Tanner Baird 4 6-6 17, Jonathan Pfenning 0 0-0 0, Eddie Bartoletti 0 0-0 0, Kenny Fernandez 0 0-0 0, Garrett Green 1 1-2 4, Adam Jolly 6 3-5 15, Andrew Campbell 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 14-17 64.
3-pt. goals — Abraham Lincoln (6): Bamba 2, Brown 2, Veazy, Perez; Holy Family (4): Baird 3, Green. Fouls — Abraham Lincoln 15, Holy Family 8. Fouled out — Foster.