When the state 4A boys basketball tournament began, Holy Family was the 17th seed.
When the state 4A boys basketball tournament ended March 11 at the Denver Coliseum, Holy Family stood atop the heap. The Tigers beat Resurrection Christian 53-43 for their first state title since 2014.
“It feels great,” said Gabe Tafoya, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “We’ve worked all season for this. It finally came to us. We worked hard for this.’
Eric Quintana tossed in 10 points to help the Tigers’ cause. Resurrection Christian’s top scorers were Cade Crutcher with 12 points, Marcus Phillips with 11 and Ty Yoder’s 10 points.
Holy Family scored just six points .. two, 3-point baskets .. in the second quarter. But coach Peter Villecco didn’t make any changes during the halftime break.
“We just had to do what we do better. We had way too much one-on-one in the second quarter,” he said. “Part of that was their defense. They take away a lot of things. We got outside of ourselves. We said we have to space better.”
As is usually the case with championships, Holy Family’s defense told the tale. The Tigers forced 16 turnovers and scored 21 points as a result. By comparison, Holy Family turned the ball over just five times.
“All year long, it’s been defense for us,” said Rocco Bridges, who finished the game with nine points. “That’s what motivates our team to work hard at the end of the day.”
That wasn't the only thing that worked for the Tigers.
“Transition worked for us today,” Tafoya said. “We had to beat them down the floor. They were fast. They were big. But when we kicked things out, good things happened.”
“We wanted to wear them down,” Villecco said. “Our guys imposed their will in the second half. We knew they were good defensively and that scoring was going to be hard.”
Holy Family, which finished fourth in its conference and with a record of 17-11 overall, didn’t care for its playoff seed. But the collective attitude was one of a chip on the shoulder.
“It (the seeding) was a little alarming,” Tafoya said. “But we used that as motivation.”
“Coming into this tournament as the underdog didn’t phase us at all,” Bridges said. “We just kept working hard. It’s not a surprise. We are battle-tested. We knew we were ready for this tournament.”