MEAD — The Mead boys basketball team's 79-71 home victory over the visiting Holy Family Tigers on Thursday might have been the best regular-season finale in the program's history.
Ranked No. 3 in Class 4A by the latest CHSAANow.com poll, the Mavericks (20-3, 16-0) clinched the 2018-19 Tri-Valley League championship. Not only did the Mavericks win the league, they did so by posting their first-ever undefeated conference record. That, in turn, meant this winter marked the first time the Mavericks had ever swept Holy Family (18-4, 13-2), a team that entered the game ranked fourth in the state.
The atmosphere in a packed Mead High School gym reflected the multifaceted importance of Thursday game and the Mavericks' postgame celebration showed how much the rivalry victory meant to them.
"This is amazing," Mead junior Trey Ward said. "We knew they were going to come out and be really tough, and that it would be tough to get them again. We just came out even stronger right off the bat and it feels great to beat them twice because we've never done that before."
The Mavericks have won 19 straight games since opening the season with a 1-3 record. Thursday's game had a similar pace to the teams' first meeting on Jan. 24, in which Mead pulled ahead early and held off a late surge from Holy Family to win by five points. The rematch was much more high-scoring at least partially because the Mavericks hit 12 3-pointers and led 22-11 after sinking six of their eight long-range attempts in the first quarter.
With a 36-26 halftime lead, the Mavericks held that same margin to start the fourth quarter. The Tigers, however, opened the final frame with a 7-1 run to cut the lead to four points before the Mavericks responded with a 6-0 run of their own and were then able to keep the Tigers at arm's length until the final buzzer.
"They are really good," Holy Family head coach Pete Villecco said. "They play at a high level and made a ton of threes. We came in knowing the known was what they do from the three-line and they shot it well. I thought in the first half, a lot of them were contested, but two were not. They just shoot so well and they stretch you out defensively. They are a hard guard.
"We got to four and we just didn't execute and turned it over and gave them an easy basket and that hurt."
The Mavericks entered the season finale with a quartet of double-digit scorers in Nick Jacobs, Jax Wilke, Caleb Ayers and Will Maher. It was Maher, Ayers, Wilke and Ward who each put up double figures on Thursday.
For Holy Family, seniors Kyle Helbig and Tanner Baird combined to score 59 of the Tigers' 71 points. Helbig scored 23 of his game-high 31 points in the second half while Baird scored 18 of 28 total points after halftime.
"We were able to slow down a couple of their runs a little bit better tonight," Mead head coach Darin Reese said. "This was just a fun atmosphere and a fun game between two really good teams. We hit enough free throws down the stretch and kept our composure. They made a heck of a run so give them credit. But our guys responded so I'm proud of them."
Both Mead and Holy Family entered Thursday's contest sitting among the top six teams in the Class 4A RPI, which is the primary criterion for seeding the postseason bracket that will be released on Sunday. Both teams bowed out in the second round of last winter's state tournament but will likely receive first-round byes next week.
Holy Family has one regular season game left with Berthoud coming to Broomfield on Saturday.
Mead 79, Holy Family 71
At Mead H.S.
HOLY FAMILY (18-4, 13-2)
Nellis 2 0-0 4, Helbig 13 3-5 31, Becker 0 0-0 0, Baird 12 2-2 28, Bartoletti 0 0-0 0, Green 1 0-0 2, Jolly 3 0-0 6. Totals 31 5-7 71.
MEAD (20-3, 16-0)
N. Jacobs 3 1-1 8, Maher 4 3-5 13, Wilhelm 1 2-3 4, Ward 4 4-5 13, Wilke 7 4-5 20, Barthalomew 1 0-0 2, KJ Jacobs 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 15-21 79.
Score by quarters:Holy Family 11 15 23 22 — 71
3-point field goals — Holy Family (4): Baird 2, Helbig 2; Mead (12): Ayers 6, Wilke 2, Maher 2, Ward, N. Jacobs. Total fouls — Holy Family 18, Mead 10.