“Our defense was stellar”
Defense was the name of the game for the Crested Butte Titans basketball team at the season opening Ouray tournament, held Friday and Saturday, November 30-December 1.
Pre-season prognosticators picked the Ouray Trojans to win the Mountain League in basketball this year. The team has several players returning, several big players, and edged the Titans out of the top spot in last year’s standings.
Friday night in Ouray, the Titans sent those pre-season pollsters packing as they handed the Trojans a 49-43 loss in the opening game of the tournament.
In fact, the Titans nearly dominated the entire game with a stifling zone defense and an offense led by junior John Wright, who scored 25 points and pulled down 17 rebounds.
The Titans took a four-point lead in the first quarter and built it up to seven points by the end of the third quarter, taking a 36-29 lead into the final eight minutes.
They got a scare in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, though, when Ouray came out with a half-court man-to-man defense that flustered the Titans.
Crested Butte turned the ball over four straight times, allowing the Trojans to take the first lead of the game and forcing coach Robin Loyed to call a time out.
Fortunately, the breather was all the Titans needed to recover from their mishaps, as they came out of the time out to outscore the Trojans eight to one in the final stretch, sealing the six-point win.
“Our defense was stellar,” says Loyed. “To hold Ouray to 43 points was just a terrific defensive effort.”
In addition, the Titans shot 13 for 18 from the free-throw line and gave the ball up nine times total.
“It shows when you make free-throws, don’t turn the ball over a lot and play good defense, you win,” says Loyed.
The Titans showed up Saturday to face the Telluride Miners, a solid 2A squad (Crested Butte is 1A), with an all-state caliber guard in Mike Matthews.
While zone was the defense of choice against Ouray, Loyed had his team play four quarters of man-to-man against Telluride with senior Will Curry matched up against Matthews.
“Will did a tremendous job on him,” says Loyed.
After falling behind 18-15 in the first quarter, the Titans came back to take a 25-24 lead into halftime. Despite suffering a drastic shooting slump, the Titans held the Miners in check in the third quarter and the teams were notched in a 36-36 tie heading into the fourth quarter.
“There was a stretch where we just couldn’t buy a basket,” says Loyed.
The Miners finally capitalized on the Titans shooting cold-spell and built a six-point lead with a minute to go in the game, but senior guard Joe Bosshard hit a three-point shot—he had 14 points on the night—to close the gap to three.
The Titans defense stopped the Miners on their next possession and Wright tied it up after grabbing a rebound and dribbling the length of the court to pull up from three point range and draining it, tying the game 51-51.
With Curry fouled out, Telluride’s go-to-guy Matthews managed to break free for two points with 20 seconds left. The Titans set up for one last three-point shot, but the ball hit off the rim and the Miners hit two final free throws to ice the win.
While Wright led the team again with 19 points and 10 rebounds, Curry led the team on defense against Telluride’s all-star, scored seven points as well and pulled down five rebounds.
In addition, senior captains Daniel Hargrove and Alexei Desmarais held the team together and focused during their first two games of the year.
“Both of them provided outstanding floor leadership,” says Loyed.
All in all, Loyed and the team were happy with their effort, especially on the defensive end.
“I think we were pretty encouraged,” says Loyed. “In the Ouray game we faced adversity and we overcame that and put it away. Saturday, we convinced ourselves that our defense is tough enough to keep us in any game.”
The Titans will start the regular season schedule in Nucla on Friday, December 7 and then will play their first home game of the year against Plateau Valley on Saturday, December 8 at 5:30 p.m. They’ll stay at home for the next game as well, when they host Cedaredge on Tuesday, December 11 at 6:30 p.m.