Eric Quintana’s ride to Class 4A basketball glory began long before he put on a Holy Family jersey. In fact, it started long before he was even born.
Last month, when the Tigers barreled through the postseason to a state championship, Eric, a senior, didn’t just lead his teammates to the school’s fourth boys basketball crown. He achieved the same feat his father, assistant coach Mike Quintana, had 25 years earlier, and for the same school, to boot.
Members of that 1998 squad, who Mike played with during his senior season, cheered the 2023 Tigers on from the Coliseum stands as they watched them make history once again.
“To see my team, the ‘98 team, in the stands to support my son was also a special moment for me,” Mike said. “We had people from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, all the way up until now that came this year and actually passed out the uniforms to our team at the beginning of the year. That was pretty special. Each guy was able to say what the uniform meant to them, special moments that they had playing and passed it on to this group. For this team to go through what they went through this year and actually win the state championship as well was pretty special.”
Just weeks before Holy Family’s postseason run, the 4A team struggled through a tough 5A schedule — in arguably the best 5A league — dropping eight of its last 10 regular-season games. Following that slump, CHSAA’s Selection and Seeding index handed the Tigers the No. 17 seed.
They made their opponents regret it, and Eric — this year’s Daily Camera player of the year — served as the “heart and soul” of that team, according to head coach Pete Villecco. Eric always understood the assignment, and the Tigers’ first-round win at DSST: Green Valley Ranch illustrated that fact perfectly.
He was a nightmare to play offense against.
“I’m super statistical,” Eric said. “I really pay attention to details and certain things. When I’m watching film, I’m scouting a specific person that I’m going into that game against, like, for example, the Green Valley Ranch game. When I was looking at the player, I was kind of just (looking at) their tendencies.
“What is one thing that I know I can make them uncomfortable with? Going into that game, it was just getting him to change directions. I knew that he felt comfortable with both hands. He was a good guard. … I just saw that when he changes directions quickly, multiple times, he struggles because he feels that he’s under duress, or that he’s not doing his job as a point guard. And I tried to attack that.”
The team celebrated that early-tournament win “like we won the Super Bowl,” and the confidence they had lost in the weeks leading up to it came rushing back. Up to that point, Eric had spent an estimated 16 hours per week studying film to find his opponents’ weaknesses.
After that Green Valley Ranch game?
“Sleep was not an option at that point,” Eric said. “As long as I do my job, then everything will fall into place. It didn’t matter what everyone else was doing. As long as I hold my guy to a certain (point) amount, or I force them to do things that they’re not used to, then it’ll help the team defensively.”
While many strong players can sometimes fold under the pressure during the postseason, Eric only shone brighter. In Holy Family’s final three games at the Denver Coliseum — from the Great 8 on — he drained 11 of 16 3-pointers and shot 54% from deep throughout the entire tournament.
He consistently made plays for his teammates, setting them all up for the success they collectively accomplished when the clock hit zero at the Coliseum.
“He was so locked in. He got better and better as each game went on,” Villecco said. “The DSST game, he was really good defensively. He had five steals and then he had five assists. Eric does so much more to impact winning than scoring. Eric’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached. He’s a coach on the floor. … If he chose to be a coach, he would be dynamite. He’s just so smart.”
For now, Eric plans to spend his college days off the court while he studies engineering, but if he ever does decide to become a coach, just like his dad, he’d come full circle from where Mike began in 1998.
In a way, he already has.
“He’s fearless in big moments but he’s also just such a caring person,” Mike said. “Until I saw zeros in that last championship game, that’s when I was finally able to enjoy it. But to watch him do it and to hear our family’s last name again in a Holy Family uniform was pretty special for me.”