BROOMFIELD -- The Holy Family girls basketball team hadn't lost a state playoff opener in Ron Rossi's first dozen years as the Tigers' coach, and despite being tied at halftime on Friday night, he had no intention of ending that streak this season.
Though Silver Creek had Holy Family outsized, the Tigers averted an upset with a strong second half en route to a 53-36 round-of-32 victory at home in the 4A state matchup.
Holy Family, in its second season in 4A after winning six 3A state titles in seven years (2008-14), outscored the Raptors 14-4 in the third quarter and 32-15 in the second half after the game was knotted at 21 at intermission.
"We talk about 'tradition never graduates' and that applies to the playoffs," Rossi said. "You're part of this tradition. You better play like the players ahead of you played, and believe in the dream."
The victory put the Tri-Valley League champions (18-6 and seeded second in the Donald Wilson quadrant of the 4A bracket) into Saturday's 1 p.m. Sweet 16 game at Holy Family against third-seeded Pueblo South (18-6). South defeated Vista Peak in Friday's second game at HFHS, 56-43.
While there were several reasons for the Tigers' second-half surge against Silver Creek -- including holding the Raptors to 33 percent field goal shooting after intermission -- Rossi said the key was a "Willis Reed move to motivate my team."
Junior guard Casey Griggs, the team's second-leading scorer this season, hadn't practiced all week due to a pulled hamstring, and didn't play in the first half as Rossi was hoping to hold her out completely on Friday. But given the tie score at intermission, the coach felt he needed a catalyst -- like Reed was in Game 7 of the 1970s NBA Finals, when he played despite an injury to lead the New York Knicks to the title.
"These kids don't know who Willis Reed is," Rossi noted with a laugh. "But (inserting Griggs into the second-half lineup) actually did movivate my team. There was definitely a different spark and energy in the second half than the first half. She did make a difference. She didn't score a lot (three points), but she helped our defense.
"There's no tomorrow. If you don't get this one, you don't play tomorrow."
Holy Family broke the halftime tie with two straight 3-pointers to start the third -- one each by Isabelle Hren and Leah Schwartz -- and the Tigers led the rest of the way.
"We're always a second-half team and we come out with a spark," noted senior Katie Chavez, who won 3A state titles at Holy Family as a freshman and a sophomore. "We look forward. Now in the playoffs you can't let little things get in your head. We have to keep moving forward. We're a fighting team. Even if we were behind, we would know we would pull it out at the end."
Chavez hit all eight of her free throws in the fourth quarter to share team scoring honors with Hren as each tallied 12 points. Overall, Holy Family managed to hit just 37 percent from the field on Friday.
As for seventh-seeded Silver Creek, it finished the season 12-12, ending a streak of four straight years with winning records, including trips to the Sweet 16 each of the last three years.
"It was frustrating" on Friday, said Raptors coach Dan Kloster. "I thought we played well, but there's times where we'd go south. And when we go south, we really go south. We go all the way down to Antarctica. And when we're up, we're on the top of Mount Everest. It's been an extreme season and a roller-coaster ride the whole time. And this game was indicative of our season."
Silver Creek's two 6-foot-2 players, Jordan Carter and Violet Kennedy, combined for 26 of the Raptors' 36 points, with Carter scoring 14 and Kennedy a dozen.
Holy Family 53, Silver Creek 36
At Holy Family
SILVER CREEK (12-12)
Kennedy 6 0-2 12, Harris 0 0-0 0, Carter 7 0-0 14, Kloster 1 0-0 2, Noble 0 2-4 2, Kasper 2 0-0 4, Harper 0 0-0 0, Nicholas 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 2-6 36..
HOLY FAMILY (18-6)
Chavez 2 8-8 12, Schwartz 3 0-0 8, Hren 5 1-2 12, Gardon 2 0-0 4, Alderfer 2 1-1 5, Griggs 1 1-4 3, Giltner 0 1-2 1, B. Torres 1 0-0 2, Ward 1 0-0 2, R. Torres 2 0-0 4. Totals 19 12-17 53..
Score by quarters:Silver Creek 8 13 4 11 — 36
Holy Family 11 10 14 18 — 53
3-point field goals — Silver Creek (0); Holy Family (3): Schwartz 2, Hren.. Total fouls — Silver Creek 14, Holy Family 7. Fouled out — none.
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