THORNTON — Knowing what it was up against playing one of the state's toughest early-season schedules, the Holy Family girls basketball team had to wait a while before collecting its first win of the season.
The wait is over.
On Thursday night in the consolation semifinals at the Best in the Nest tournament hosted by Horizon, the Tigers won 63-39 over Castle View. It was the rebound performance they were looking for after opening the season with back-to-back losses.
"We knew we had a really tough pre-league schedule so to come out and get that first W was huge, especially since we haven't been starting strong in our games," Tigers senior point guard Kaitlyn McKenzie said. "We didn't start very strong tonight but in that third quarter when it was a really close game, we took control and did what we needed to do."
Ranked No. 7 in 4A despite their 1-2 record, the Tigers lost their season opener 54-39 to 4A No. 4 Air Academy. In the first round of the Best in the Nest tournament on Tuesday, they fell 60-46 to 5A No. 7 Valor Christian. Even Castle View (1-4), a 5A team, received votes in the latest CHSAANow.com poll. The Tigers' non-conference schedule also includes 4A No. 2 Evergreen and nationally-ranked Regis Jesuit, which is ranked 25th in the MaxPreps.com national Xcellent 25.
On Thursday, the Tigers scored just four points in the first quarter and trailed 22-19 at halftime. They reclaimed the lead when Genevieve Gudino scored on a put-back midway through the third quarter and followed that up immediately with a 3-pointer that put the Tigers ahead 29-24. Holy Family hit six 3-pointers in the second half and held the Sabercats to four third-quarter points to lead by eight points to start the fourth quarter, in which the Tigers continued to pull away.
Now that they have notched their first victory, the Tigers can focus on their bigger-picture goals.
"My freshman year, we went to the Final Four," McKenzie said. "We'd love to win league again and get back to the Final Four and the ultimate goal is to win state. Our softball team won state this year so we'd love to make it back-to-back for the Holy Family girls programs."
With McKenzie leading the press break and setting up her teammates effectively, the Tigers got a game-high 22 points from senior Amanda Ward and 13 more from sophomore Genevieve Gudino.
"In the second half, I was really feeling like myself," Ward said. "It felt good. We always have a slow start in the first quarter. If we would have just come out stronger in the first quarter, the game would have been over by halftime. But I'm really proud of everyone. We played well, our bench came off and scored and it was a real team effort."
The Tigers will take on Lakewood in the Best in the Nest third-place game at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Holy Family 63, Castle View 39
At Horizon H.S.
CASTLE VIEW (1-4)
Love 1 0-0 2, Boekes 1 2-2 4, Cooley 2 0-0 5, Baker 0 0-0 0, Uminski 0 0-0 0, Rychlick 0 0-0 0, Hollingshead 0 1-4 1, Merrick 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0, Hema 1 2-2 4, Cole 6 2-5 14, Withey 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 7-13 39.
HOLY FAMILY (1-2 )
McKenzie 2 1-3 6, Gudino 5 0-1 13, Thomas 1 0-0 2, Sanders 0 0-0 0, Wells 1 0-0 2, Gardon 1 2-2 4, Whitlock 2 1-3 6, Ward 8 5-5 22, Winters 1 0-0 2, Aanerud 1 1-6 3, Aren 1 1-1 3. Totals 23 11-21 63.
Score by quarters:Castle View 9 13 4 13 — 39
3-point field goals — Castle View (1): Cooley; Holy Family (6): Gudino 3, McKenzie, Whitlock, Ward. Total fouls — Castle View 19, Holy Family 18.