In an ultra-competitive matchup between host team, Holy Family (21-4) and No. 13 seed Lincoln (18-7) Feb. 27, a monster third quarter and big plays down the stretch proved the decider in the Tigers …
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In an ultra-competitive matchup between host team, Holy Family (21-4) and No. 13 seed Lincoln (18-7) Feb. 27, a monster third quarter and big plays down the stretch proved the decider in the Tigers advancing to the Great 8 after their 64-54 victory.
The game began as it went most of the night, back-and-forth.
Exchanging blows, the lead changed hands repeatedly with both groups tied at 14 after one. Nine first-quarter points from HF’s senior Kyle Helbig and seven from Lincoln’s junior Tijani Bamba kept their team’s in it.
In the second, reserve Adam Jolly entered the game and made his presence felt inside with second-chance put-backs and opportunities. With eight points in the quarter and relentless work in the painted area, the Tigers went to halftime up 28-25.
“He was so active,” Holy Family coach Peter Villecco said postgame of Jolly. “That’s a really good Lincoln team with length and athleticism we haven’t seen, and Adam knew he had to bring his A game. He competed his tail off, had some big put-backs for us in the first half. He battled against tremendous athletes, and I’m proud of him.”
Ending strong towards halftime, HF came out to start the third with a purpose. Building a 37-30 lead with a little over three minutes left in the quarter, the Tigers went on a 10-0 run led by the pace of junior point guard Dominic Nellis and outstanding defensive execution. While building the lead to 15 at the end of three, things looked glim for the visiting team.
“In that spurt, it was probably about as well as we have played all year,” Villecco said. “We came out and fouled that first play of the third quarter, then we got a basket and from there is really snowballed. We wanted to win the third quarter, and that’s as well as we have guarded and executed.”
However, as they did all night, Lincoln kept competing. Going on a 17-7 run the next six minutes, hectic defense and offensive contributions from everybody put the game in reach at only five. In a nervous gym, the Tiger fans looked to be in shock, but the home team had come too far to end things like this.
Clutch plays offensively by senior Tanner Baird, and Nellis held the Tigers above water. With six points in the fourth, Baird’s confidence in controlling the basketball matched with four pressure-filled free-throw makes with less than a minute left sealed the contest. Five points by Nellis along with his constant energy was the icing on top in moving on.
“Dom Nellis is tough as nails. We always know we are going to even-keeled and steady with him quarterbacking our team. That’s how he has been all year,” Villecco said. “Him scoring 13 is a heck of a lift, he’s usually more of a facilitator. But today, they played him pass-first, and he stuck some big shots.”
Leading HF in scoring, Baird recorded 17. Three others in Jolly, Helbig and the previously mentioned Nellis accounted for 15, 15 and 13 respectively. For the opposition, Bamba and juniors Kwaheem Brown, Ty Foster put up 16, 12 and 11 each.
“Our crowd was fantastic this past Saturday (Feb .23) against Northfield, and they brought it again tonight. Saturday (March 2) is going to be bonkers here for Mead part three,” Villecco said.
Falling to Mead (No. 5 seed) twice this season 50-45 (Jan. 24) and 79-71 (Feb. 14), Holy Family finally took down their in-conference rival, snapping the Maverick’s 21-game winning streak March 2, 63-54. Moving to the Final 4 March 8 at 4 p.m. at the Denver Coliseum, the Tigers will face No. 1 seed Lewis Palmer (26-0).
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