Senior Alex Strauss is unstoppable by Paonia defense as he reaches for a layup Friday night. He put up 18 points for the Dragons in their 64-63 overtime win. —Johnson Publications

The student section at Friday’s semifinal matchup rallies for a Holyoke comeback in the fourth quarter against Paonia. Dragon fans from near and far were out in full force throughout the 2A state basketball tournament in Loveland March 9-11. They packed the house in green and gold at the Budweiser Events Center to cheer on their hometown boys to win a state championship. —Johnson Publications photo

Tenacious Dragons come back for OT win in Final Four

    Talk about tenacity.
    Besides a 3-2 lead to start the game, the Dragons were behind the entire Holyoke-Paonia regulation game in Friday’s Final Four matchup at Loveland’s Budweiser Events Center March 10, and not just by a couple of points. Deficits were as wide as 13 points in the second quarter, 15 in the third and 14 early in the fourth before an incredible surge by the Dragons tied up the game 57-57 in the last three seconds.
    Holyoke punched its ticket to the championship game with a dramatic 64-63 overtime win.
    “Paonia was a very good basketball team that was very similar to us in a lot of ways,” said coach Scott Dille, noting the team’s balanced scoring and solid inside players.
    While Holyoke struggled to get good looks early on against the Eagle defense, in the last half of the fourth quarter, something clicked. “Our defense became outstanding. We strung together a few stops, came down and hit a few 3s to cut the lead quickly,” said Dille. “Our kids really played an unbelievable overtime period. More than likely, it was fueled by the incredible fan support.”
    The energy in the gym was huge, with fans on their feet and jumping in unison, swinging white towels over their heads as they cheered on the Holyoke Dragons. Even after the game on the way to the locker rooms, Yuma and Wray girls awaiting their own Final Four showdown joined Holyoke cheerleaders in forming a victory tunnel for the Dragons.
    “It was a super great environment and a super great finish to the game,” said Dille. “Our guys never quit and kept competing the whole time. It was a lot of fun.”
    While a 3 by M.J. Taylor put Holyoke’s first points on the board for a 3-2 lead, it was the only lead the Dragons would have until overtime. Paonia scored two first-quarter 3s of its own on the way to a 12-7 first-quarter lead for the Eagles.

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