FORT COLLINS -- A thriller. A classic. A heartbreaker.
Although for the Holy Family girls basketball team, that last description does not apply. The Tigers were the team instituting the heartbreak.
In an epic Class 3A championship game Saturday night at Moby Arena, Holy Family wiped out significant deficits in regulation and in the first overtime before securing a 53-48, double-overtime win against St. Mary's.
"Our motto this year was 'together we are better,' and this was a good example," said Holy Family coach Ron Rossi, whose squad captured its fifth title in the past six seasons. "We just kept believing and kept hanging in there. We should have lost that game until (Claudia Pena) hit that big 3."
The Tigers (22-5) trailed by 10 midway through the fourth quarter, but dramatically wiped out the deficit. It included two consecutive 3-pointers by Lindsey Chavez (who hit five of them overall and scored a game-best 22 points) to get her team within striking distance in the final minute.
Then Pena, the Tigers' center, forged the tie with her first 3 of the season with about 25 seconds left. From the right baseline, it was nothing but net.
"I'm not supposed to be shooting 3s, but oh my God, it's a dream come true," said Pena, who fouled out and had to watch most of the overtime periods from the bench.
Holy Family forced a turnover after Pena's 3 tied it at 34-34, but couldn't get off a shot before the regulation buzzer. The Tigers promptly fell behind by six points in overtime before pulling off another miraculous comeback.
They scored four points in the final 13 seconds of OT, the first two on free throws by freshman point guard Katie Chavez, who finished 9 for 9 at the line. Then sophomore reserve Jalyn Hall stole the inbounds pass and was fouled. She nailed both free throws in the pressure cooker to make it 43-43 and force a second OT.
"It felt like a pressure situation, but I just think of it like any other practice," Hall said. "Just trying to make free throws."
The Tigers outscored St. Mary's 10-5 in the second OT, getting all 10 points from the line. Katie Chavez went 6 for 6 in the period, helping the Tigers (24 for 30 from the line overall) avenge a 38-35 loss to the Pirates in December.
St. Mary's (23-5) was aiming for its first ever title under the CHSAA umbrella, and the Pirates were tantalizingly close.
"I've been to too many of these things," Pirates coach Mike Burkett said. "I've seen the ball bounce out of somebody's hands and the other team hit it from half court. I've seen so many different ways to win and lose a game. And they took advantage."
The rabbit-out-of-a-hat victory had many contributors, including unsuspected ones such as Hall and senior reserve Monica Stokes, who played strong crunch-time minutes in the fourth.
"It was our bench that kept pushing us," Lindsey Chavez said. "Every time we were near them or there was a timeout they would say 'it's not over yet, we still got this.'
"That was a huge part of keeping us helping keep our spirits up, because when you're in the middle of it, so many emotions run through you."
The Tigers are now back to the top of 3A after a one-year hiatus. They lost to Florence in the Sweet 16 last season to snap a four-year stranglehold on the crown. While each title has a different feel, this one undoubtedly will go down as the most dramatic with the largest deficit(s) overcome.
"It was just a combination of belief, team and fans," Pena said.
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Holy Family 53, St. Mary's 48
At Moby Arena
ST. MARY'S (23-5)
Whitelaw 2 2-4 6, Florek 3 2-2 10, Hartman 3 6-9 12, Niles 4 3-4 12, Burns 0 1-2 1, Broerman 1 0-0 2, Resman 0 0-0 0, Thomas 0 0-0 0, Barta 2 0-0 5. Totals 15 14-21 48.
HOLY FAMILY (22-5)
K. Chavez 2 9-9 14, L. Chavez 6 5-6 22, Quinn 0 0-0 0, McGillin 0 1-2 1, Pena 2 2-5 7, Silverstein 0 0-0 0, Jaros 0 0-0 0, Stokes 1 2-2 4, Spitzer 0 0-0 0, Blanchard 0 2-2 2, Hall 0 3-4 3. Totals 11 24-30 53.
Score by quarters:
St. Mary's 5 10 10 9 9 5 -- 48
Holy Family 8 9 4 13 9 10 -- 53
3-point field goals -- St. Mary's (4): Florek 2, Niles, Barta; Holy Family (7): L. Chavez 5, K. Chavez, Pena. Total fouls -- St. Mary's 22, Holy Family 20. Fouled out -- Florek, Pena. Technical fouls -- None.