FORT COLLINS — Even with a loss to finish the season, Holy Family boys basketball proved it has come a long way.
The Tigers fell 54-41 to Valley in the Class 3A third-place consolation game on Saturday. But there was not a single purple-clad player hanging his head on the way back to their Moby Arena locker room.
Instead, there was a realization from the Tigers that playing the second Saturday in March is a different world than the one they recently resided. It was only one short year ago the team was home this time of year, licking its wounds after just seven wins.
“If you would have told at the beginning of the year we’d be a Final Four team and the only one to beat (second-seeded Colorado Spring Christian) this season, I think most of would have all taken it,” Holy Family forward Tanner Stuhr said.
The hiccup against Valley (24-3) Saturday and sixth-seeded Kent Denver in Friday’s semifinals were bummers. But Holy Family’s previous work broke what had been a dismal string of postseasons.
Pete Villecco’s second season at the Tigers’ helm marked the team’s first postseason wins since the 2003 tournament. And Holy Family (16-11) earned its first victory in Moby Arena Thursday, knocking off then-undefeated Colorado Springs Christian in the Great Eight.
All in all, it was a season Villecco believes has the Tigers turning the corner.
“We’re trying to build something here,” the coach said. “And we feel like we are heading in the right direction.”
Villecco was quick to point out, however, Holy Family would have never been at this point without the work of its seniors.
“They really busted their tails and worked,” the coach said. “I couldn’t be prouder of that group.”
Holy Family’s sticky point Saturday, was the same thing haunting the team all season — offense.
The Tigers allowed Valley to gain a double-digit lead in the first, missing a slew of jump shots and lay-ups. And while the team cut the deficit within reason at times, it just did not have the touch to go over the top.
The Tigers finished with 13-of-51 shooting from the field, with Kyle Willis leading all shooters with 8 points.
“It’s the story of our season,” said Stuhr, who finish with four points. “We got some good looks, missed some shots and key free throws.”
The Tigers drew the game within four points 1:33 before half off a David Sommers fade-away jumper. But that was all the closer the team would get to a win.
Valley’s offense proved too much, with Tanner Schmidt (13 points), Cedric Collinge (14) and Drew Dellenbach (14) each breaking into double digits. Giving the Vikings the early advantage was the team’s 3-point shooting, with Valley hitting three of its final five before halftime.
Even with the rocky finish, the returning Tigers believe they have plenty to look forward to after what they hope is a springboard season.
“Making the Final Four after not making the field last year is definitely an accomplishment,” Sommers said. “It’s some our young guys can learn from.”
Valley 54, Holy Family 41
At Moby Arena
HOLY FAMILY (16-11)
A.J. Middleton 0 2-2 2, Hollwedel 1 2-4 5, Stuhr 1 2-2 4, Cox 1 0-0 2, Sommers 1 1-3 3, R. Willis 2 1-2 6, Jarasius 2 0-0 4, Clay 2 0-0 5, Granberg 0 2-2 2, K. Willis 3 2-2 8. Total 13 12-17 41.
Matsushima 2 3-4 8, Schmidt 3 7-8 13, Collinge 5 2-4 14, Hiubbard 1 3-5 5, Dellenbach 6 0-0 14. Total 17 15-21 54.
Score by quarters:
Holy Family 6 13 12 10 — 41
Valley 17 8 13 16 — 54
3-point field goals — HolyFamily (3): Hollwedel, R. Willis, Clay; Valley (5): Matsushima, Collinge, Dellenbach. Total fouls — Holy Family 17, Valley 11. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none.