Holly boys basketball mounts enormous comeback to capture 1A title

Holly boys basketball champions

(Cannon Casey/CHSAANow.com)

LOVELAND — Holly boys basketball won the Class 1A state championship, using a 30-6 run to come back from a 16-point deficit. The Wildcats allowed just three points in the third quarter to beat Cheyenne Wells 49-39.

If there's anything the state has learned about Holly the past few seasons it's that the Wildcats don't have a habit of foiling in pressure-packed games.

After all, they won the 2015 state championship over Fleming 33-32. And on Friday, with two trusty guards left from that title team in Sigi Avalos and Yaniel Vidal, Holly took out Kit Carson 47-44 on a game-winning three by Avalos in triple overtime. Sometimes, players just seem to have a knack for making winning plays when it gets to winning time. 

In the 1A final at the Budweiser Events Center against Cheyenne Wells, Holly turned a 27-11 halftime deficit into a 31-30 lead after three frames. That tidal wave of momentum washed away the Tigers' hopes of sparking one final run as the top-seeded Wildcats outscored the second seed 38-12 after halftime. 

"It hasn't soaked in yet," Holly coach Dusty Heck said. "That was such a rollercoaster of a game. It feels like I'm dreaming."

Asked how they flipped the script after the break, Heck said they needed to be assertive.

"I just told them there were weaknesses in that zone," he said. "I told them be aggressive. We're going to win or lose being aggressive."

All 38 points down the stretch were scored by a trio of senior guards. Chandler Rushton (16 points) and Avalos and Vidal (11 apiece) attacked the basket ferociously, drawing numerous fouls, and spreading the floor for open three-pointers.

The backcourt has been quite a strength the past few seasons. The veterans erased the bad taste left from a Final Four loss in 2016 to Shining Mountain with a second state title in three years. 

"I've had them since they were sophomores," Coach Heck said. "Yaniel has been a three-year starter for me. They are great guys on and off the court. They lean on each other."

And they had to, as tired legs from the triple overtime win on Friday may have led to missed shots early. Coming alive just in time to pull off a comeback that won't soon be forgotten was quite a way to finish the careers of six seniors. 

"We don't give up, we don't ever give up," Vidal, a 1A player of the year candidate, said. "We have the biggest heart in the state.

"We came into this game and were like, '25-0 is so close.' We just wanted it so bad. The way we lost last year was so heartbreaking."

Holly snapped a 64-year title drought two years ago, but Cheyenne Wells (22-3) kept a 62-year drought alive. They won Class B in 1955, and had another runner-up finish this year.