BROOMFIELD — That gentle breeze you may have felt around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night was the collective sigh of relief coming from inside the Holy Family gymnasium.
The whole survive and advance playoff cliche was all too real in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament for the Tigers against the 47th-seeded (only 48 teams make the tournament) Wheat Ridge.
Holy Family, seeded No. 18, moved on with a too-close-for-comfort 48-45 win over the Farmers and will travel to Monument on Saturday to take on Palmer Ridge in the second round.
"I think there was some jitters and you could see that, our first four shot attempts were at the rim and we missed," Holy Family coach Pete Villecco said. "I also think that they are a lot better than their record. We knew that was a scrappy team and that their record was deceiving."
The Farmers, despite their 6-17 record entering the tournament, had held strong in the RPI based on their performance in the Jeffco League and gave teams like Valor Christian and Evergreen fits all season.
And the Farmers hung around all night against a Tigers squad, that for the most part, was getting their first taste of playoff basketball.
Wheat Ridge was doing the little things — pounding the ball in the paint, getting rebounds and making the extra pass — that were leading to easy looks and they carried a 34-33 lead to the fourth quarter.
That's when the sense of urgency seemed to kick in for Villecco's team.
"They came out with a lot of fire and we really didn't," junior Kyle Helbig said. "But by the end of the night, we brought it back up."
Helbig scored seven of his game-high 20 in the fourth quarter, taking the ball to the basket hard several times and getting rewarded with and-1 chances.
Still that separation the Tigers wanted never really came. Their largest lead of the night came with 22.3 seconds left after Tanner Baird — who was a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final quarter — made two free throws.
On the next Wheat Ridge possession, the Farmers secret weapon — 5-foot-5 freshman sharp-shooter Wes Miller — came down, spotted up in the corner and buried a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 46-45 with 15 seconds to play.
Baird would hit two more free throws to make it 48-45 with 14 seconds left and the Farmers had one more chance to tie it up.
Baird stayed in the pocket of Miller and Tigers defensive guru Aaron Sanders hounded Julian Clausen and didn't allow him a clean look before time ran out.
"There is a lot of parity in 4A and our guys were excited that they found a way," Villecco said. "I know survive and advance is a cliche, but that's what we talked about tonight."
HOLY FAMILY 48, WHEAT RIDGE 45
At Holy Family
WHEAT RIDGE (6-18)
Bronk 6 0-2 12, Dietrich 1 1-2 3, Thomas 5 3-5 13, Tate 0 0-0 0, Morales 0 0-0 0, Miller 1 2-2 5, Lucero 0 0-0 0, Warner 0 0-0 0, Clausen 5 2-2 12, Van Tuyl 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 8-13 45.
HOLY FAMILY (16-8)
Nellis 1 0-0 2, Helbig 8 3-4 20, Baird 3 6-8 12, Kinoti 2 2-2 8, Sanders 0 0-1 0, Jolly 1 2-3 4, Hunter 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 13-18 48.
Score by quarters:Wheat Ridge1016811—45
3-point field goals — Wheat Ridge (1): Miller; Holy Family (3): Kinoti 2, Helbig. Total fouls — Wheat Ridge 13, Holy Family 15. Fouled out — Thomas. Technical fouls — Helbig.