DENVER – There aren’t many instances at a state high-school championship where there’s a discussion about the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia.
But Holy Family girls basketball coach, Ron Rossi, had a reason to bring up the subject after his Tigers beat D’Evelyn Junior/Senior High School 49-44 at the Denver Coliseum to win the state title March 11.
Rossi, who has won seven titles since joining the Tigers’ program 20 years ago, wears his Jerry Garcia during each title game.
“This tie went through championship 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6,” he said. “I said, ‘I gotta wear it.’ I’m probably the only coach in the United States who wears a tie with all the coaches’ gear we wear. It’s a fun, little thing we do to release the tension.
Whether it was the tie or something else, the Tigers found a way to outlast the second-seeded Jaguars. There certainly wasn’t any tension on Rossi’s face as he threw the ball back over his head in celebration after the game ended.
“It feels amazing,” said Essynce Contreraz, who scored 10 points for the Tigers. “We’ve been waiting for this since freshman year. “This was the best team I’ve ever been on. It feels amazing.”
Fiona Snahsall scored 14 points to lead Holy Family. Enyiah Contreraz had nine. Macy Scheer had 18 points for D’Evelyn. Peyton Marcel scored 11.
Holy Family held the Jaguars to seven points in the third quarter. Rossi felt that’s when the game changed. It also helped the Tigers’ cause to start an 11-0 run in the quarter to give the Tigers some breathing room. Enyiah Contreraz hit a pair of 3-pointers during that stretch, and Jennifer Alexander also hit a 3-pointer.
“Coach Rossi has been around for a while. When he gets a five-point lead, it’s like 20 points,” Jaguars coach Chris Olson. “They are so methodical about the way they do stuff. I told the kids they made a couple of more shots, and we missed a few.”
D’Evelyn trailed by eight points with less than a minute to play. Scheer hit a 3-pointer plus a pair of free throws to help keep the Jaguars in the hunt. Marvel added a free throw with 36 seconds left that cut the Tigers’ lead to 46-44 with a half-minute left. Julie Hodell and Essynce Contreraz combined to make three of four free throws in the last 30 seconds of the game to give the Tigers the win.
“I don’t think the kids we have need a lot of extra motivation,” Olson said. “The softball players have had to deal with Holy Family. No extra motivation needed. They’ll put in the work again. Hopefully, we can make another run next year.”
“They’re (his record-tying seven state championships) different because they are all different kids, different qualities, different personalities,” Rossi said. “This one is different. We played one big, and Fiona isn’t a post player. She’s going to play guard in college. We played five guards. That was a challenge to play anybody we want playing small people.”