Regionals begin Saturday, March 8 at 11:30 a.m.
Defense led the Crested Butte Titans boys’ basketball team through the District Tournament and defense could take them through regionals and all the way to the 1A state tournament in Colorado Springs.
The Titans headed to the District Tournament in Delta determined to establish their defense mentality for the weekend in the first game against North Park on Thursday, February 28.
“What we tried to do was set the defensive tone in that game with a tenacious man-to-man,” says Coach Robin Loyed.
Part of that plan involved matching junior Robbie Holleran up against North Park’s scoring star for the entirety of the game.
By halftime, the North Park shooter had just nine points and the Titans were up 47-17 putting the game well out of North Park’s reach en route to a 73-49 Titans win.
The win set up the third meeting between the Titans and Vail Christian this year in the District semi-finals on Friday, February 29.
While the Titans handled Vail Christian rather easily in the first two meetings this year, Loyed remained wary of Vail Christian and their six-foot, seven-inch tall all-star player.
“We knew they were going to be psyched up to play us again,” says Loyed.
Loyed turned to Holleran again and Holleran shut the Vail Christian scoring leader down in the first half as the rest of the Titans defense held Vail Christian to just 16 points the first two quarters.
Unfortunately, the Titans struggled on their offensive end as well taking a shaky five-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We were really shutting them down but we couldn’t seem to score ourselves,” says Loyed.
Ahead 39-36 in the fourth quarter, Loyed called a timeout to ensure the team was aware of the game-saving strategy.
“I told them, ‘Let’s hold them defensively and just work for the good shot,’” explains Loyed.
The Titans came out of the timeout and Holleran sank a 10-foot jumper to give the Titans a five-point lead forcing Vail Christian into a must foul situation to stop the clock.
After the Titans missed its first two free throws, senior Will Curry stepped to the line and sank his two shots to initiate 10 in a row to seal the 49-38 win.
“We could of let that one get away from us but the boys stepped up and knocked down critical free throws,” says Loyed. “It was quite an emotional game.”
The win pushed the Titans through to the District finals against Ouray on Saturday, March 1.
This would mark the fourth time the two teams have met this season with Ouray winning the last two meetings.
While revenge was on the mind of the Titans, as well as a District title, heading into the game, certain realities would set the team back prior to the game.
First, Holleran would be gone with a prior hockey engagement to attend. Second, the team’s scoring leader, junior John Wright, fell extremely ill and was questionable to play.
Wright rallied and matched up on Ouray’s big man inside as Loyed looked to defense again as the key to victory.
Wright and the team’s defensive effort were stellar, but their shooting was not as the Titans shot only three of 12 from the free throw line and 34 percent from the field.
“We couldn’t get anything to fall,” says Loyed.
The Titans opened up the game with a 10-0 lead but Ouray battled back to take a 14-12 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Ouray carried its slim lead for most of the game but the Titans tied it up with 1:23 left to play and decided to hold the ball searching for one final shot.
That plan quickly flew out the window though, as the Titans turned the ball over and fell back 45-42 with only seconds to go in the game.
The Titans looked to Wright for the game-tying three-pointer but as he pulled up for the shot three Ouray players pounced on him and the shot missed its mark leaving Ouray with the 45-42 win.
Senior Randy Evans was the shining star for the Titans on offense, scoring 16 points on battling in and out of the key for rebounds.
“He was a monster,” says Loyed. “He just had a phenomenal game.”
Overall, Loyed was proud of the team’s effort and thinks that they are poised for a strong showing at the Regional Tournament, where they will face Creede.
The Titans lost to Creede in the Regionals last year but beat them twice this season, the last win by 19 points. Loyed will have his full squad ready for the game and if they win, the Titans will get their first trip to the Great Eight 1A state tournament at the Air Force Academy.
The game is at Gunnison High School and tip-off for the boys is 11:30 a.m.
“This is a winnable game for us,” says Loyed.