First trip in teams’ history
The Crested Butte Titans boys’ basketball team is going where no Crested Butte boys’ basketball team has gone before—the Great Eight 1A state tournament at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
The Titans defeated the Creede Miners 64-49 on Saturday, March 8 in the regionals to earn a trip to the big show.
While the win was somewhat expected (the Titans beat Creede two weeks ago by 19 points), it was anything but easy for the first two quarters of the game.
The first key ingredient was shutting down Creede’s leading scorer. Coach Robin Loyed handed junior Robbie Holleran the role and Holleran managed the task well for three quarters. More important though, while the Titans appeared listless in the first half, Holleran was on fire, diving for loose balls and scoring baskets in an attempt to ignite the rest of the squad.
The Titans took a 5-0 lead, but Creede climbed back and hit a three-pointer at the end of the first quarter to take an 11-10 lead.
Creede continued to show patience on offense and hustle on defense, while the Titans struggled through another flat quarter of play.
Creede took a 17-13 lead five minutes into the second quarter but the Titans recovered the lead a minute later. Wright sank a three-pointer and a steal by Holleran led to a basket by senior Joe Bosshard and the Titans were on top 18-17.
Wright picked up his third foul of the game and Creede hit another buzzer-beater three-pointer to end the first half and pull ahead 28-23.
The situation inspired Loyed to share his thoughts with the team in the locker room on their performance.
“I said ‘Guys, here’s what I think. You’re being out-hustled, playing tentative and just not playing your game. We’ve got to play Crested Butte basketball or we’re going home,’” explains Loyed.
The Titans turned up the heat in the second half, with a press defense forcing Creede to turn the ball over and give up easy baskets to the Titans.
“The press tends to energize us,” says Loyed. “Everybody picked up their game.”
Creede scored the first two baskets of the third quarter to go up 32-23, but the Titans woke up to score 41 points in the second half.
Senior Randy Evans scored six points to lead the Titans on a comeback, pulling within one point of Creede. Wright hit two free throws and a three-pointer from way outside to put the Titans on top 38-36 with three minutes left in the third quarter, forcing the Creede coach to call a timeout.
Immediately following the break, the Titans delivered the crushing blow. Wright bounced outside for the ball and then found Evans crashing the weak side with a lob pass that Evans soared up for and tipped in off the glass.
The Titans carried a 47-38 lead into the fourth quarter that just got bigger as senior Will Curry took over for Holleran on the defensive marking and Wright turned to autopilot from beyond the arc.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Wright hit two three-pointers—he would finish the game with 27 points total, to build a 57-44 Titans lead.
Down nine points with two minutes left, Creede started to foul the Titans to stop the clock and put them in a pressure situation on the free throw line.
The Titans responded as senior Daniel Hargrove hit five of six free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach and seal the 64-49 win.
“It was a team win,” says Loyed. “It builds character to come back like that.”
The Titans advance to the Great Eight state tournament with the win for the first time ever and enter the big show as the number eight seed out of eight teams.
They have their hands full as they face undefeated Hi-Plains, the number one ranked 1A team in the state.
“My challenge is to get these guys to play 32 minutes,” says Loyed. “We’re lucky in that we’re deep enough to do that.”
Loyed believes the team is up to the challenge though and sees a couple of things in their favor.
“I feel like we’re gelling at the right time and anything can happen,” says Loyed. “I really think we’re in a good position in that no one really knows us.”
The Titans will face Hi-Plains at the Air Force Academy on Thursday, March 13 at 8 p.m.
“It would be great to get a lot of Crested Butte fans there for the game,” says Loyed.