DENVER — Mix in a team that doesn’t miss, a whole bunch of costly turnovers and the jitters of a foreign venue and you have the recipe for disaster.
That’s exactly what happened in the opening eight minutes on Thursday to the Holy Family Tigers against Mullen. The 14th-seeded Mustangs were 8-of-13 from the floor, forced 12 Tigers turnovers with their press and bolted to a quick 19-5 lead that Coach Ron Rossi’s side simply couldn’t overcome.
In a match-up of old Parochial League rivals, it was the Mustangs their punched their ticket to Saturday’s Class 4A championship with a 55-33 win over the Tigers at the Denver Coliseum.
“The bright lights were too bright for us,” said Rossi, who made his eighth trip to the Final Four in his 16th season at Holy Family. “They came out smoking and we were like scared rabbits out there.
“They set that tone and we got in such a big hole, and it just kept getting deeper and Mullen is a very good team.”
Holy Family (21-6) was up 5-3 in the early going, on the strength of a Genevieve Gudino three-pointer and an and-one lay-up. But that’s where the good times stopped.
The Mustangs went 23-3 run into the second quarter that all but put the game out of reach.
The Tigers went to the break down 29-15 and came out of the locker room with the thought process of chipping away and cutting the lead to single digits.
After back-to-back defensive stops, they were able to trim the lead to 31-20 and had possession to get to to nine. But is never materialized and the Mustangs quickly built the lead back up to 15 points at 35-20.
“That was the goal. We were trying to get the old stop-score-stop, get two of those and we get it into single digits and good things will happen,” Rossi said.
The Mustangs size was too much for the Tigers to handle and it led to second, third and many times fourth chances on the offensive end. Mullen6-foot-2 freshman Imani Perez finished with nine points, but the biggest thorn in the Tigers side was freshman Gracie Gallegos, who finished with 11 points. Sophomore Megan Pohs also finished with 11 for Mullen.
“(Mullen coach) Frank (Cawley) and I were talking about which kids were going to show poise, with all these sophomores and freshmen on the court, and our kids didn’t show it,” Rossi said. “Their kids did and it got away from us very early.”
Gudino led the Tigers with 13 points and Tyler Whitlock finished with six.
Rossi was grateful for the opportunity for his young team to get the experience on the big stage and knows it will pay off next year, when they try to make another run.
“I’m so proud of the kids, you know 60 teams aren’t here and we were one of the four that were left,” said Rossi, whose team had won 13 straight entering the game. “You can’t beat the experience, but it hurts. For the seniors it really hurts and my young kids got a taste of it and I know they don’t want that taste of it again. So they are going to work hard to come back again.”
(14) MULLEN 55, (2) HOLY FAMILY 33
At The Denver Coliseum
Mullen (19-8) 19 10 8 18 — 55
Holy Family (21-6) 5 10 7 11 — 33
Mullen — Megan Pohs 4 0-0 11, Colleen Hart 0 0-2 0, Elaina Martinez 1 0-0 2, Alexa Dominguez 3 1-4 7, Jessica Oates-Stamm 1 0-0 2, Iliana Perez 3 0-0 6, Abby Webster 1 0-0 3, Makenna Elges 0 0-0 0, Gracie Gallegos 5 0-0 11, Grace Oswald 0 0-0 0, Haley Van Horn 2 0-0 4, Imani Perez 3 3-3 9. Totals 20 4-9 55.
Holy Family — Kaitlyn McKenzie 1 1-2 3, Genevieve Gudino 5 1-3 13, Gabby Thomas 0 0-0 0, Dylan Sanders 0 1-2 1, Alyssa Wells 1 0-0 3, Noelle Gardon 1 0-0 2, Tyler Whitlock 1 4-5 6, Amanda Ward 2 0-0 4, Erin Winters 0 0-0 0, Cecelia Aanerud 0 1-3 1, Daniella Hren 0 0-0 0, Jaelon Giron 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 8-15 33.
3-pt. goals — Mullen (5): Pohs 3, Webster, Gallegos; Holy Family (3): Gudino 2, Wells. Fouls — Mullen 13; Holy Family 10.