BROOMFIELD — In 2012, the Holy Family boys basketball team had seven seniors and made a run to the Final Four in Class 3A.
They were underdogs then and each of the Tigers had a chip on his shoulder. Their improbable run gave them the confidence to return to the state tournament in 2013 as the No. 3 seed.
On Thursday at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, the Tigers will face No. 22-seeded Eaton in the Great Eight with the opportunity to return to the Final Four. Only this time, the Tigers intend to contend for a title.
“We’re excited for it. We’ve been practicing real hard and we have a lot of confidence going into it,” Tigers senior Chuck Hollwedel said.
Hollwedel said the Reds are an aggressive team and the Tigers intend to counteract their aggression by controlling the tempo of the game and getting into the paint on offense. On defense, where the Tigers like to win games, Hollwedel said the Tigers feel they can win if they hold the Reds around 45 points or fewer.
The Tigers beat the Reds 56-47 in Eaton on Jan. 4. But third-year head coach Pete Villecco said both teams are quite different now than they were then.
“They’re playing some young kids. They’re kind of extended their rotation a bit,” Villecco said. “They have some young kids playing with confidence and we have some young kids playing with confidence. So, we’ve both improved.”
The Tigers will be without junior guard Ryne Willis, the team’s second leading scorer at 9.2 points per game and best defender, who tore his ACL against Kent Denver on Feb. 20.
The Tigers have only three seniors and play four sophomores. Departing from the senior-laden formula that propelled them to the Final Four last season, Villecco said many of the young Tigers players were around and they’re ready for the big stage.
“I feel like we’re a lot more confident this year, regardless of our age,” Villecco said. “The experience last year with our run really jump-started our whole program with confidence, from the freshmen all the way up to the seniors. We feel like we can beat anybody on any given night. In the past, it wasn’t like that.”
Eaton was the last team besides Faith Christian, which has won the last five, to win a 3A state title. The Reds won in 2007.
Junior David Sommers, who leads the Tigers at 12.8 points per game, said the Tigers are ready to head to Fort Collins and play the game.
“We’re prepared and there’s no pressure when you’re prepared,” Sommers said. “We know what it’s like to go up there and win and we know what it’s like to go up there and lose. We have that bad taste in our mouth from last year and we’re just gonna go up there and play our butts off.”
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