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Girls basketball: Holy Family defense locks down Air Academy for Class 4A Great 8 berth

Tigers beat Kadets as Alyssa Wells scores 11

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    Holy Family's Dylan Sanders, center, drives toward the lane against Air Academy during their Class 4A Sweet 16 playoff game on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Broomfield.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    Holy Family's Maggie Dooley goes for a short shot attempt against Air Academy during their Class 4A playoff game at Holy Family High School on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    Holy Family's Tyler Whitlock, left, goes up for a tough shot attempt with guarded by an unidentified Air Academy player during their Class 4A playoff game on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Broomfield.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    Holy Family's Alyssa Wells passes to a teammate in the corner during their Class 4A Sweet 16 playoff game against Air Academy on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Broomfield

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    Holy Family's Cecelia Aanerud, center, looks to pass to a teammate during a Class 4A playoff game against Air Academy on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Broomfield.

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BROOMFIELD — The longer the state bracket goes, the deeper the teams, the brighter the stars.

Ron Rossi’s bunch is well-adjusted.

Holy Family contained prestigious-prospect Kylee Blacksten and beat Sweet 16 regular Air Academy 42-27 Tuesday night to advance to Class 4A’s Great 8 for a second year in a row.

After a win never much in doubt, students dressed to some kind of pajama theme night with onesies and sweatpants scattered throughout, celebrated with players and chanted “Rocket Ron” as the teams headed off the court.

For the Tigers, it’s another day alive in the tournament. For Blacksten, it’s the end to a standout career as she soon heads to Boulder to play for JR Payne and the CU Buffs.

“She’s a great ball player,” Tigers junior Alyssa Wells said. “Basically, our whole mindset was to slow her down.”

Outside the gym afterward, Wells and Cecelia Aanerud talked about studying the 6-foot-3 standout and the film they watched on her after sending different looks and bodies her way throughout the night.

“She’s the basis of their offense,” Aanerud said. “So, if we stop her, it’s harder for everybody else to score.”

Colorado’s No. 5 2020 girls prospect, per Prep Girls Hoops, never found much of a rhythm against the thwarting contain and finished with just 13 points.

The rest of her team never found much at all.

“It was team defense,” Rossi said. “If you noticed, sometimes I had a little girl on her to make her bring the ball up hard, so that took a little energy away and she had to give it up. And sometimes she went down low, and we had one front and one back. Lot of defensive rotations and schemes and the team executed them. She had to earn those 13 points.”

Now, the focus goes to No. 2 Pueblo West, its supreme scorer Hannah Simental and her 1,700 career points. The Cyclones, winners of 13 straight after knocking off No. 15 George Washington Tuesday, beat the Tigers by 22 in December.

Another plan will certainly be put into action when the two meet Friday.

“It’s a fun challenge,” Wells said of facing widely heralded players. “I think our team, we learn in film and put it into the game.”

Wells finished with 11 points, Daniella Hren had eight and Tyler Whitlock seven in a balanced attack for Holy Family (19-6), which beat Air Academy (18-7) by a near identical score — 42-25— earlier in the year.

The Tigers have now won five straight as they head to their fourth state quarterfinals game in six years since joining 4A.

This time of year, “we take a lot of time being prepared,” Rossi said. “And prepared means what we do and what they do. And this has become a really good defensive club. And so, we spend a lot of time in film work and work hard defending our basket. And it carries over because they see those banners.”

Whitlock swished a 3 and had a layup in traffic as part of a second-quarter spurt that put the Tigers ahead 24-15 by half. The Kadets got as close as eight early in the fourth but a quick 3 from Whitlock ignited an 8-0 run that put things out of reach.