PUEBLO WEST — Should we really ever question Ron Rossi and his Holy Family girls basketball team?
The six-time state champion coach and owner of over 500 career wins has seen a lot of basketball.
On Friday night at Pueblo West’s Jerry Kersey Gym, he did something he has never done in his illustrious career. He won a game in Pueblo.
The Tigers trailed by 12 at the half and by as many as 14 midway through the third quarter, but somehow found a way. Holy Family went on a 12-0 run in the third quarter to make it a two-possession game going to the fourth, and then closed the game on a 17-0 run to win 50-39 and advance to its second straight Class 4A semifinals.
“The ball got pretty heavy for them there in the fourth when they got behind,” said Rossi, whose team will face No. 3 Green Mountain on Thursday at the Denver Coliseum. “They had just lost one game (to Valor Christian) and they just weren’t used to it.”
The Cyclones, led by senior Hannah Simental, hadn’t been challenged for much of the 2020 calendar part of the season and after two quarters of basketball had to be feeling good. Simental was huge with 16 of her team’s 25 points.
The second half was a different story.
The defense pressure from Tyler Whitlock, Dylan Sanders and others that switched to guard Simental clearly made a difference and it translated to the offensive end.
“At the half we came in the locker room we were pretty down,” said junior Alyssa Wells, who had just one point after the first 16 minutes. “The leaders of this team Cece (Aanerud), Tyler and Noelle Gardon kept us up.
“And coach had a goal to get it to within six points after three, and that was right were we wanted to be.”
At the five-minute mark of the fourth, Pueblo West was up 39-33 after a Simental basket, but it would be the last points they would score.
A 17-0 run with big shots from Whitlock and Daniella Hren — who was lethal off the bench with 12 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer at 4:14 — shifted the momentum clearly to the Tigers, who lost in the same building in December by 22 points.
“Once you get going and you see our little crowd that is making their crowd quiet, it’s just amazing,” said Wells, who finished with 16 of her 17 in the second half. “This game meant so much to us because we are going back to the Final Four.”
Wells’ 17 was complemented nicely with Whitlock’s 16 and Hren’s 12.
“(Daniella) stepped up and we knew we had to get her the ball,” Wells said.
Simental was the only Pueblo West player in double figures, finishing with 23 in her final prep game.