BROOMFIELD -- As a young team, Holy Family has been hunting for a defining victory. If a few more shots would have fallen their way Saturday, the third-ranked Tigers would have notched one.
St. Mary's just escaped being upset by the host in the Tiger Tipoff title game, claiming the tournament's crown with a 38-35 win. And while Pirates held the lead from the second period on, the second-ranked team was sweating the margin to the final buzzer.
St. Mary's only heaved a sigh of relief after Alex Jaros and then Lindsey Chavez's final two 3-point attempts came up short in the finals 3 seconds of play.
"We had our chances, but the ball just didn't fall for us tonight," Holy Family coach Ron Rossi said. "I think after playing three straight nights we were a little tired."
Holy Family (3-2) might have been bummed about the game's outcome, but the Tigers were far from disappointed with their effort. The team rallied from a seven-point deficit against St. Mary's (3-0) in the third to nearly pull off the win.
Gabby Wilson initiated the comeback at the end of the third with a three-point play, when she was fouled on a put back off a rebound. Then Claudia Pena took over in the fourth. The junior center found a seam to the inside collecting five of her team high 10 points in the final period.
"Earlier I had been playing a bit more to the outside," she said. "We hadn't had much post play up to that point, so I knew it would open up."
What had stymied the Tigers' inside game was the Pirates' sizable forwards. Emily Whitelaw was the toughest player Pena had to fight through with the St. Mary's center finishing with an 11-point, 15-rebound double-double.
"(She) had the hops and the strength," Pena said. "But it should not have been something we could not handle."
The loss not only held Holy Family back from a golden opportunity in its home tournament, but also in the 3A standings. With top-ranked Denver Science and Technology falling Friday to Lutheran, the winner of the Tiger Tipoff should be No. 1 when the next poll comes out.
"That should be St. Mary's now," Rossi said.
Even with Saturday's missed opportunities looming large in the Tigers' minds, the team was pleased with how it faired in the tournament overall. Holy Family came up with its first win of the season against a ranked team, beating No. 10 Valley in Friday's semifinals. But Rossi knows his team has a ways to go to play the ball he expects.
"We still trying to find our identity," the coach said. "We don't know if we're an offensive team, a defensive team or what."
Even with much still up in the air, Pena believes her team made strides in figuring out its winning formula over the course of the Tiger Tipoff.
"We learned we can play with a lot of teams in 3A," she said. "But we're settling in."
Follow Elwood on Twitter: @ElwoodKShelton.
St. Mary's 38, Holy Family 35
At Holy Family HS
ST. MARY'S (3-0)
Broerman 2 0-0 4, Whitelaw 5 0-2 10, Florek 4 0-1 11, Hertman 0 2-2, Niles 4 1-2 9, Burns 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 3-7 38.
HOLY FAMILY (3-2)
K. Chavez 2 1-2 7, L. Chavez 3 0-0 7, Wilson 1 1-1 3, Jaros 2 0-0 6, Blanchard 1 0-0 2, Pena 4 2-7 10. Totals 13 3-9 35.
Score by quarters:
St. Mary's 8 11 12 7 -- 38
Holy Family 8 10 9 8 -- 35
3-point field goals -- St. Mary's (3): Florek 3; Holy Family (5): K. Chavez 2, L. Chavez, Jaros 2. Total fouls -- St. Mary's 12, Holy Family 14. Fouled out -- none. Technical fouls -- none.