Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
BROOMFIELD — There comes a time in every titan’s life when it must fall, and Thursday proved to be that day for the top-seeded Holy Family girls basketball team.
In a highly-anticipated Class 4A state Final Four matchup, No. 4 Mullen brought the fire on Holy Family’s home court, and the Tigers got burned. They couldn’t escape a large first-half deficit as they fell to the dangerous Mustangs, 75-50.
From start to finish, the Tigers and Mustangs engaged in a high-intensity, fast-paced battle. Mullen used its advantages to stifle Holy Family, who just couldn’t keep up. Thus ended its incredible 13-2 season, one that the girls shouldn’t take lightly.
“I’m really proud. They competed, they believed in each other. They trusted each other. It’s just the perfect team to have as a coach,” head coach Ron Rossi said. “(Mullen) is just so good. They have so many weapons. They’ve got size, they’ve got speed and we got off to a really bad start.”
The Tigers played unselfish basketball as seven ladies found the scoreboard. Senior shooting guard Alyssa Wells led Holy Family with 22 points, followed by seniors Dylan Sanders and Tyler Whitlock, who added eight apiece.
The Mustangs began the game firing on all cylinders while deploying a suffocating defense on the other end of the floor. They went up 14-0 before Holy Family was able to get on the board with a smooth layup from Sanders at the 4:03 mark of the first period. It was the first time the Tigers were able to get inside.
Following a second timeout from Rossi in that time frame, the Tigers seemed to get back on track and shift the flow of play, if only for a few minutes. They ignited a brief 8-0 run to get back within contention.
But white-hot 3-point shooting from Mullen in the first half dug the Tigers into a hole that they couldn’t find a way out of. The Mustangs shot 77.8% (7-of-9) from downtown, a metric that would have been hard to beat for any team.
At the half, the Tigers trailed 45-17.
Holy Family entered the second half with a heightened level of play. By this point, the Tigers had figured the Mustangs out some and started to chip away at the lead, one bucket at a time. They found ways to get inside the post more and they never let up the pressure.
The Tigers finished their dominant season bookended by their only two losses. They outscored their opponents by an impressive 944-506 margin and won most games by 20 or more points. They’ll return a core group of six but will say goodbye to five seniors.
“I think a season like this is really going to help their minds in the future,” Whitlock said. “They’ve been to the Final Four now, they know how it is. They have experienced the playoff nature and everything. I’m really excited to see how far they go next year.”
Those five seniors — Wells, Whitlock, Sanders, Cecilia Aanerud and Daniella Hren — made the Tigers proud during their tenure at Holy Family. Together, they earned three Final Four appearances, a mark that will be hard for future groups to beat.
“This is by far my favorite team. We gave our all to every minute. It sucks losing this way, but we all gave it our all and I’m actually excited. This team is phenomenal,” Wells said. “We just have such a tight-knit group, just the fact that our starting five was all seniors. We’ve been best friends for six years. We’ve known each other for the longest time. Just being able to play with your best friends is a different type of experience.”