DENVER — It all comes down to this.
The Holy Family Tigers — both the girls and the boys — have made their way through the Class 4A brackets and earned a trip to the Final Four on Thursday (girls) and Friday (boys).
Lets start by taking a look back, starting with the girls:
— Second round, beat Glenwood Springs (61-26) https://hfathletics.com/2019/02/23/girls-playoff-basketball/
— Sweet 16, beat The Classical Academy (61-46) https://hfathletics.com/2019/02/27/girls-basketball-and-then-there-were-eight-tigers-beat-tca/
— Great 8, beat Greeley Central (52-42) https://hfathletics.com/2019/03/02/girls-basketball-tigers-knock-of-greeley-central-to-go-to-final-4/
In the Final 4, the Tigers will tangle with former Parochial League foe and fellow Catholic School, Mullen at 4 p.m. Holy Family and Mullen met earlier this season in a Foundation Game (it didn’t count, and both teams didn’t show much).
The Mustangs are the No. 14-seed in the 4A tournament and are led by a duo of talented underclassmen, sophomore Megan Pohs (11.6 points per game) and freshman Imani Perez (11.0 points and 6.7 rebounds). Sophomore Alexa Dominguez has been a force on the board too, averaging over five per game.
Don’t let the No. 14 seed next to their name fool you. Mullen (18-8) is most definitely a top four seed and their resume proves it. The Mustangs have yet to lose to a 4A team this season and their only in-state losses are to Regis, Cherry Creek (twice) and Grandview in Centennial League play and all three of those teams are still alive in the 5A tournament. Their other three losses were at the National Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix.
Holy Family is back in the state semifinals for the first time since 2016 and is doing so with an equally young roster. The Tigers are led by sophomore Genevieve Gudino’s 15 points per game. Her ability to hit the three-pointers has been huge all season long and will have to be clutch in a neutral gym.
The starting five, including seniors Amanda Ward and Kaitlyn McKenzie, as well as sophomores Tyler Whitlock and Cecelia Aanreud have been tremendous with their pressure. So too has been the depth coming off of Ron Rossi’s bench. Alyssa Wells has continued to hit big shots, Dylan Sanders’ ability to step in at the point guard position when needed and the grit of Noelle Gardon and Erin Winters has been invaluable.
The winner will face either (1) Air Academy or (4) Pueblo South on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the Class 4A title.
Here’s a look back at the boys run:
– Second round, beat Northfield (57-39) https://hfathletics.com/2019/02/23/boys-basketball-bairds-28-lead-tigers-past-nighthawks/
— Sweet 16, beat Lincoln (64-54) https://hfathletics.com/2019/02/28/boys-basketball-tigers-win-thriller-against-lincoln-advance-to-great-8/
— Great 8, beat Mead (63-54) https://hfathletics.com/2019/03/02/boys-basketball-third-times-a-charm-for-holy-family-against-mead/
When the bracket came out, the overwhelming sentiment was that the Tigers easily had one of the toughest draws and that a trip to the Final Four was definitely going to be earned. And that they have done, taking down two of the Denver Prep League’s best in Northfield and Lincoln, and then — in front of one of the best crowds to ever pack a Holy Family gym — dispatched of a Mead team that had already beat them twice this season.
On Friday at 4 p.m., the test gets even larger against arguably one of the best teams in the state regardless of classification, Lewis-Palmer. The Rangers are 26-0 and on a mission to avenge last year’s title game defeat at the hands of Longmont.
The unquestioned leader of the Rangers is 6-foot-6 senior Joel Scott. Scott, whose brother Josh was a standout at the University of Colorado, averages 18.9 points per game and 6 rebounds. But it is the supporting cast that is just as dangerous. Western State commit Matthew Ragsdale is a sharp-shooting guard that is good for 17+ a game.
The Rangers have a ton of size — including 6-6, 6-7 and 6-8 across the post — and even their guards are a tough cover at 6-feet plus.
Coach Pete Villecco’s Tigers have hit their stride in the playoffs and done so on both ends of the court. The dynamic duo of Tanner Baird and Kyle Helbig — who each eclipsed 1,000 points in the same game earlier this year — have been nothing short of spectacular during their playoff push.
The Tigers boast three players that average in double figures, Baird (16.5), Helbig (13.5) and Adam Jolly (12.0). Dominic Nellis has been ever-so-crafty on the offensive end with his ability to get to the paint, draw the defense and either dish or knock down the teardrop runner in the lane. Garrett Green has shown the ability to knock down the big three-pointer when necessary, but his brilliance has been on the defensive end — especially in the quarterfinal against Mead, where he held the dangerous Caleb Ayers to just four points.
The game tips off at 4 p.m. at the Coliseum and the winner will face either (2) Longmont (the unbeaten defending champions or up-start No. 14 seed Pueblo East. The Eagles recently found out that their school would be closing at the end of the school year and are as dangerous a team remaining with so much to play for.