BROOMFIELD — There isn't a Class 4A boys basketball team in the state of Colorado that has a bigger target on its back than Pueblo West, and the defending champions are just as complete as a year ago.
Luckily, for the rest of the regular season, the Holy Family Tigers get to watch from afar while working on some of the things the Cyclones were able to exploit in a nonleague contest Thursday at Holy Family.
If a team like the Tigers with state title aspirations needs to have some outside inspiration, Pueblo West supplied a bit of it in a 65-49 win — a game that was extremely close well into the third quarter before mistakes caught up with the hosts.
"We had a lot of turnovers there that let them get in transition and we couldn't get back quick enough," said sophomore Kyle Helbig, who scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in Holy Family's final game before winter break. "They ran it on us a bit, and they kind of took it to us."
Yes, the Cyclones were quick to both ends of the floor, which has influenced their No. 1 ranking. When the Cyclones pressed, Holy Family fumbled the ball around a bit, and that particularly hurt them in the late stretches of both the second and third quarters.
Holy Family had twice as many turnovers for the game (16) as Pueblo West (8), and 11 of those came in the two middle quarters where the Tigers were out-scored 44-26.
The Tigers (5-3) were without senior starter Joe Golter, and they were put in spots where his experience may have made a difference. But head coach Pete Villecco still had to credit the Cyclones (7-0) for their athleticism and basketball smarts.
"They're a really good team and they return everyone from last year, so even with Joe in there we knew it would have been a challenge that our kids were excited for," Villecco said. "We knew out margin for error was small without Joe, and we just turned it over too much in the third quarter. They blew it open because we weren't tough enough with the ball."
Coming off a loss against Pueblo South on Wednesday, Holy Family came out energized against the zone defense on Thursday, using three 3-pointers to take a 15-10 lead after a quarter.
They were able to build that lead to 22-12 after Wega Kinoti's trey at the 3 minute, 55 seconds mark of the second period. But spurred by a flurry of transition buckets from Nieyeme Smeyer-Williams, Pueblo West closed out the half on a 15-3 run.
Both teams had small scoring spurts in the early part of the third frame, and with about 3 minutes left before the fourth quarter it was still just a 42-38 lead for the Cyclones. But another string of strong finishes to the hoop helped PWHS to a 50-32 lead in about a minute's time, the final run they needed to get the win.
Williams, David Simental and Pierre Taylor each finished with at least 15 points for the Cyclones. For Holy Family, Tanner Baird's 12 points led the way while Michael Zeman also had 11 points.
"We needed to help out a little more on defense, but I think we do have the guys capable of guarding anybody in the state," Helbig said. "We got some good shots but they just weren't falling."
"Their guards were hard to keep out of the paint," Villecco said. "Our guys fought, and I thought Kyle Helbig played with a bit of a spark in him. Some of our young kids came off the bench and made some plays. And really, (Zeman) did a pretty mice job on Simental."
Pueblo West 65, Holy Family 49
At Holy Family HS
PUEBLO WEST (7-0)
Louther 2 2-2 6, Mayber 1 0-0 2, Williams 7 0-0 15, Simental 5 6-6 17, Taylor 8 3-5 19, Jacquart 1 0-0 2, Wilkenson 2 0-0 4. Totals 26 11-13 65.
HOLY FAMILY (5-3)
Nellis 0 0-0 0, Helbig 4 1-4 10, Baird 4 4-4 12, Kinoti 3 0-0 8, Sanders 0 0-0 0, Price 1 2-2 5, Zeman 3 3-4 11, Miller 1 1-2 3, Hunter 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 11-16 49.
Score by quarters:Pueblo West 10 17 27 11 — 65 Holy Family 15 10 16 8 — 49
3-point field goals — Pueblo West (2): Williams, Simental; Holy Family (6): Kinoti 2, Zeman 2, Price, Helbig . Fouled out — Miller. Technical fouls — Williams, Price.