Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
FREDERICK — Holy Family has remained one of the most consistently successful boys basketball programs in Colorado for the better part of a decade.
But while it has been a long time since the Tigers have had a season that couldn’t be looked at enviously by most of the state’s teams, they have been unable to achieve one particular goal since they joined the Class 4A ranks in 2015.
While still in 3A, Holy Family had a dominant run in which the Tigers reached the Great 8 or further from 2012-14. At the end of the 2014 campaign before moving up to 4A, the Tigers were crowned state champions following a 53-52 win over Colorado Academy in the title game.
After ascending a classification, the Tigers reached the Sweet 16 in three consecutive years from 2015-17. They saw their season end in the second round of last year’s state tournament, one win short of a fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. With one of the most talented, experienced and deepest teams Holy Family has had in a long time — which is saying something — this winter’s Tigers have shown early on that this may be the season in which they finally crash through the Sweet 16 barrier.
“Honestly, we haven’t really talked too much about the end,” ninth-year Tigers head coach Pete Villecco said. “We scheduled really strong in December and we had some ups and downs, some struggles scoring. We really have the mindset that we’re just trying to get a little bit better each day. We hope with the teams we played in December and the improved Tri-Valley League, that’s going to prepare us for the end.”
Entering Thursday as the fourth team in the 4A RPI standings and the No. 3-ranked 4A team in the CHSAANow.com poll, the Tigers (6-2, 1-0) took down Frederick (5-3, 0-1) on the road, 73-31, to open the Tri-Valley League schedule and the 2019 calendar year with a victory. Prior to that, they fared well through a loaded pre-conference schedule: Sierra (5-4), Golden (3-7), Lewis-Palmer (7-0, 4A No. 1), Evergeen (6-2), Centaurus (5-3, 4A No. 8), Broomfield (2-7) and Pueblo West (6-3, 4A No. 6).
Building a 37-15 halftime lead while the Warriors shot just 14 percent from 3-point range in the first half, the Tigers got a dominant performance and a combined 37 points from their frontcourt tandem of Adam Jolly (19) and Kyle Helbig (18). With point guard Dom Nellis distributing the ball effectively, eight different Tigers players scored on Thursday night.
After spending the winter break stewing over a loss at the buzzer to Pueblo West, the Tigers needed Thursday’s win.
“Coming back from the break, we looked back on our last couple games and we’ve been coming out slow and we just wanted to change that,” Nellis said. “We came out with some different looks tonight and that helped spark us defensively. That defensive spark led to open baskets.”
The Warriors were caught off-guard by the lack of man-to-man defensive looks from their familiar opponents. Four Warriors players — Jake Green, Davis Richard, Joe Cartelli and Izayah Elize — are scoring in double figures this season. On Thursday, Cartelli and Green led the Warriors, who shot just three free throws and scored single digits in every quarter but the first, with nine and eight points, respectively.
Frederick, which finished 1-22 and did not win a conference game last winter, will have to wait a bit longer for its first TVL victory of 2019. The Warriors are, however, off to their best start since opening the 2013-14 season with a 5-3 record.
“We have improved a ton and it’s all a testament to the kids’ hard work,” Frederick head coach Enoch Miller said. “They’ve put themselves in a position just to be better. We’ve won some close games that we weren’t winning last year, and we did have a lot of close games last year. We’ve made big jumps but to compete with teams like Holy Family, at that level, we have a lot of work still to do.”
Both teams will be back in action on Saturday, with Holy Family hosting Fort Morgan and Frederick hosting Berthoud.
Holy Family 73, Frederick 31
At Frederick H.S.
HOLY FAMILY (6-2, 1-0)
Nellis 0 2-2 2, Helbig 8 2-2 18, Becker 2 2-2 7, Baird 3 0-0 8, Bartoletti 3 0-0 8, Green 3 0-0 7, Jolly 8 3-4 19, Campbell 1 0-0 2, Snider 1 0-0 2, Pierret 0 0-0 0. Totals 29 7-8 73.
FREDERICK (5-3, 0-1)
Formby 0 0-0 0, Cartelli 4 0-0 9, Elize 1 0-0 3, Sturn 0 0-0 0, Richard 1 0-0 3, Zimmerman 2 0-0 5, Buffington 0 0-0 0, Conover 0 0-0 0, Gutierrez 0 0-0 0, Green 3 2-3 8, Marinoff 1 0-0 3, Dufour 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 2-3 31.
Score by quarters:
Holy Family 18 19 27 9 — 73
3-point field goals — Holy Family (6): Baird 2, Bartoletti 2, Becker, Green; Frederick (5): Cartelli, Elize, Richard, Zimmerman, Marinoff. Total fouls — Holy Family 10, Frederick 9.
Holy Family boys in past seven postseasons
* Defeated Colorado Academy, 53-52, in title game.