BROOMFIELD — The number one goal for the Holy Family Tigers on Friday was to contain junior guard Hannah Simental of Pueblo West. One of the top scorers in the state, Simental came into Friday's game averaging 28.5 points per game.
The Tigers would keep her off the scoreboard in the first quarter, but the junior would finish with 23 points the rest of the game as the Cyclones (9-1) pulled away from Holy Family (2-4) to win 47-36.
For Holy Family coach Ron Rossi, the loss Friday caps a first month of the season that saw his team play four top-10 teams in Class 4A and 5A. Despite losing all four games, he feels the team will learn from each loss when they return for conference play in January.
"When you play good teams, you learn what your weaknesses are and can correct them," Rossi said. "That's been really good for us. Some of our weaknesses are showing, so we're working to correct them and we'll be a better team as a result."
Rossi saw his team control the pace on offense in the first half and jump out to an 8-0 lead to start the game. His team would lead 13-5 after the first quarter led most of the half. By controlling the pace and slowing the game down, the Tigers limited Simental's attempts on offense.
That changed in a third quarter that proved to be the turning point of the game.
Simental hit a 3-pointer to put Pueblo West up early in the third and added eight more points in the quarter. She began to find some space from the outside to knock down her shots, and when the Tiger defenders closed out on her hard, she put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim for layups. Her play resulted in Pueblo West going up by 12 into the fourth quarter.
"We just had a bad third quarter," Rossi said. "We were in the game, but we had a bad quarter. That really killed us."
As the lead grew in the second half, the Tigers were forced to take long, contested shots or tried to drive to the rim to draw contact or make tough layups. Shots were not falling and the lead stayed in double figures until the Cyclones emptied the bench for the final minute.
"When we're down, I'm going to go for it," Rossi said of the offense. "We try to get back in the game, but (Simental) took over."
Amanda Ward finished with 12 points and Kaitlyn McKenzie added 11 to lead the Tigers in the loss. Holy Family shot 24 percent from the field and could not match the scoring from Simental in the second half.
With the early gauntlet now behind them, the Tigers will shift their attention to the Tri-Valley League and look to defend their title from last season. Conference play will begin Jan. 3 with a road trip to Frederick to take on the Warriors (3-4).
"I feel we're going to try and defend our league championship again," Rossi said. "There are a lot of good teams and they will be coming after us, but we'll be coming after them, too. This preseason helped us. We're a better team now playing those good teams, even though our record doesn't show it."
Pueblo West 47, Holy Family 36
At Holy Family High School
Pueblo West (9-1)
Hannah Simental 7 4-6 23, Maya Sanchez 2 2-4 8, Gabby Louther 2 2-2 7, Shayla Padilla 0 2-2 2, Marissa Leyva 0 1-2 1.
Holy Family (2-4)
Amanda Ward 4 1-2 12, Kaitlyn McKenzie 2 6-8 11, Genevieve Gudino 3 0-3 6, Tyler Whitlock 1 0-0 3, Alyssa Wells 1 0-0 2, Erin Winter 0 1-2 1, Cecilia Aanerud 0 1-2 1.
Score by quarters:Pueblo West (9-1) 5 14 16 12 — 47
Holy Family (2-4) 13 4 6 13 — 36
3-point field goals — Pueblo West (8): Simental 5, Sanchez 2, Louther; Holy Family (5): Ward 3, McKenzie, Whitlock. Total fouls — Pueblo West 18, Holy Family 16.