BROOMFIELD -- Holy Family and Colorado Academy are Class 3A schools that play big school boys basketball.
In a packed gym at Holy Family with a raucous crowd, the host Tigers, ranked No. 1 in this week's CHSAANow.com poll, avenged last season’s 51-49 loss to Colorado Academy in the semifinals by beating the No. 2 Mustangs 64-60 Wednesday night.
Holy Family took advantage of its superior depth and used balanced scoring and overall team play to beat the young, but highly talented Mustangs.
Both teams entered the game unbeaten and neither had been challenged yet this season. The fans were treated to a great Metropolitan League battle with tough defense, a fast-paced second half, and a few high-flying dunks.
In a slow-starting game, Holy Family held a 10-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. Colorado Academy’s Justin Bassey, one of the premier sophomore players in Colorado, heated up in the second quarter and scored 13 points by halftime, but the rest of his team had 10 points combined and Holy Family took a 30-23 lead into the break.
The pace quickened to open the third and Colorado Academy started to get into a groove offensively as it opened with a 10-0 run to take its only lead of the game, 33-30. The Tigers responded with a commanding 16-0 run of their own and were up 47-37 entering the final quarter.
Just when it looked like Holy Family would run away and hide, the Mustangs’ trio of sophomores wowed the crowd with several big baskets.
Colorado Academy cut the lead to 60-55 with 1:04 to play on a Jack Buckmelter layup. After Holy Family’s Austin Brown hit one free throw, Christian Hyatt made it a one-possession game with 17.2 seconds left when he hit a triple.
With 13.4 seconds left, the Tigers’ Chris Helbig made one for two free throws to make it a 62-58 game. Buckmelter flew down the court and hit another layup, but the clock ran and the Mustangs fouled Helbig with 0.9 seconds remaining. He hit both free throws to clinch the win.
Holy Family coach Pete Villecco was pleased after the game with the way his team played.
“We competed," he said. "I thought our kids were tough tonight. That’s a good team. We knew it would be a battle. Both teams showed a lot. The number one thing I say is compete.”
The Tigers dominated the glass all night and were the more aggressive team.
“We wanted our frontline to dominate tonight,” Villecco said. “I thought they did a good job. I thought Austin set the tone and got a few shots at the rim early. He got a few putbacks. That was a big emphasis for us.
“We feel like we have 10 guys that can play. I know we went a little shorter tonight, but our depth has been good to us the whole year,” Villecco added. “We feel like we have a little bit of everything as far as inside, outside, guys that can get to the rim. We knew they were a little thin as far as what they play. They play six, but we didn’t wear them down, because those guys wouldn’t go away. They kept battling and battling.”
Colorado Academy came into the game with a trio of highly touted sophomores in Bassey, Buckmelter, and coach Steve Hyatt’s son, Christian. Bassey (23 points), Buckmelter (18 points), and Hyatt (14 points) proved to be as advertised, but Holy Family’s own sophomore, Helbig, also stepped up in a big way with 17 points.
“Chris is tough as nails,” Villecco said. “He’s getting better every day. He hasn’t had a bad practice all year. We ask him to do a lot. The ball’s in his hands a lot and we feel really good with the ball in his hands. I thought he grew tonight.”
Helbig was a good floor general all game and was effective on jumpers and in transition. He played tough defense and used his lanky 6-foot-2 frame to swipe two steals and help disrupt the Mustangs’ offensive rhythm. Helbig was quick to credit his teammates after the game.
“Having the depth helps us come at them in different ways,” Helbig said. “Teams with fewer guys, you can tell they get winded later on in the game. We have so many weapons that it’s hard for teams to scout us and many people can make plays.
“We don’t have any of these guys that average 20 a game, but we have a lot of guys right around mid-range scoring.”
Ryan Willis (12 points), Austin Brown (10 points and nine rebounds), and Devlin Granberg (eight points) all played an aggressive style and consistently pushed the pace and looked to get to the rim for the Tigers.
Holy Family moved to 16-0 this season and 6-0 in the Metropolitan League. Colorado Academy dropped to 13-1, 5-1 in the competitive conference featuring the top three ranked 3A teams. Jefferson Academy is ranked third.
“Holy Family’s a really good team,” said one of Colorado Academy’s sophomore sensations, Bassey. “They came out and they knew what they wanted to do. They had us scouted well. Their physicality and rebounding and fastbreak, stopping them were our biggest lessons to take away from this game.
“Hopefully, we’ll get to see these guys again.”