John Wright named to all-tournament team
After falling to the number one team in the state, the Crested Butte Titan boys’ basketball team won its final two games of the Great Eight 1A state tournament to emerge the consolation bracket champions.
The Titans entered the tournament the eighth seed and faced the number-one-ranked and undefeated Hi Plains Patriots on Thursday, March 13.
It was a tough way for the Titans to open their state tournament debut at Cadet Coliseum at the Air Force Academy.
While an upset was not out of the question, certain things had to happen. The Titans needed to shoot the lights out on offense, while the Patriots needed to be ice cold from the floor.
Unfortunately for Crested Butte, the opposite occurred.
Hi Plains opened the game red-hot, shooting nearly 80 percent from the floor, while the Titans couldn’t buy a basket, hitting just four of 30 shots in the first half.
Hi Plains took a 23-6 lead in the first quarter, including a crushing three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Titans recovered slightly in the second quarter, scoring nine points, led by senior Randy Evans who crashed the boards and scored four points, but it did little to chip away at the Patriots as they maintained to hit nearly every shot they got, taking a 23-point lead into halftime.
The Titans outscored Hi Plains in the second half, paced by junior John Wright, who hit four three-pointers for a team-leading total 20 points, but the damage was done and the Titans fell 64-47 to the eventual tournament champion.
“We just couldn’t knock the shots down and were never able to get into our full-court man-to-man press,” says coach Robin Loyed. “We dug a hole we couldn’t get out of.”
The loss sent Crested Butte into the consolation bracket and they had one of two ways to react to the opening-round loss. Lose again and pack it in on Friday or rally for the consolation bracket title and end the season on a high note.
The Titans chose the latter.
Ironically, the team saw some bright spots in their loss to Hi Plains and headed into its game against Campo/Vilas rejuvenated and destined to make a name for Crested Butte at the tournament.
“We wanted to prove that we were supposed to be there and that we could play with these guys,” says senior Daniel Hargrove.
Campo/Vilas ended the regular season ranked fourth in the state paced by a shooting guard and a top-notch college hoops bound post player.
Still, Loyed and the team remained confident with a plan in mind.
“We felt that they couldn’t stop our offense but we had to call on our stoppers and put Robbie (Holleran) and Will (Curry) on their two players,” explains Loyed.
The game was intense from start to finish, with the Titans leading the pace and Campo/Vilas doing everything it could to try to hang on.
Senior Joe Bosshard opened the game with four quick points but Campo/Vilas responded. Wright drained a three-pointer, but Campo/Vilas responded.
Campo/Vilas took a brief one-point lead five minutes into the first quarter, but Wright responded with another three-pointer and a coast-to-coast run to give the Titans an 18-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Titans built a ten-point lead to open the second quarter, started by a three-pointer from senior Alexei Desmarais and finished with the same from Evans.
Campo/Vilas battled back to cut the lead to two before free throws from Wright at the end of the half gave the Titans a 32-28 lead heading into the third quarter.
Campo/Vilas looked to its big guy to carry the load; he proved unstoppable, leading Campo/Vilas to its first lead of the game at the end of the third quarter.
The difference came in the work of senior Will Curry on defense. Curry held their shooting guard to three points while Campo/Vilas could do nothing to shut down Wright and the rest of a balanced Titans attack.
The Titans opened the fourth quarter with an alley oop from Wright to Evans and never looked back, sealing the 69-58 win with solid free-throw shooting.
“As we opened up a lead in the fourth quarter, they put us on the line and we just knocked them down,” says Loyed.
“It was awesome because it was a full team win,” adds Hargrove. “It’s cool to beat one of those teams you always read about.”
Wright led the team with 22 points, Hargrove scored 10, and Holleran finished with nine points.
The win sent the Titans to the consolation bracket finals against none other than the Ouray Trojans. The Trojans defeated the Titans three times this season, including the last time in the District tournament finals.
Suffice to say, a win over the Trojans in the consolation finals would be the next best result for the Titans to a state title.
The Titans got a scare early as Ouray opened a 10-2 lead, but Desmarais hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Trojans’ lead to two.
Wright capped the first quarter with back-to-back threes as well and the Titans were on top 18-17.
Ouray took control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring Crested Butte 14-8 to take the lead back. Wright picked up his third and fourth personal fouls in the first minute of the third quarter, forcing Loyed to take him off the court.
With Wright out and Ouray hot, it looked like the Trojans would pull off a fourth win over Crested Butte. Yet, the Titans are more than just Wright and the seniors pulled together to lead a phenomenal third quarter and hold Ouray in check.
Evans opened with a 10-foot jumper and Hargrove buried a three-pointer to tie the game 31-31.
Curry clamped down to shut off Ouray’s premier perimeter shooter and by the end of the third quarter; the Titans were down just two points.
The hold opened the door for Wright to come in fresh off the bench and fire off 10 quick points, including two threes, to push the Titans on top 50-44.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Loyed called on his team to play possession basketball to kill the clock.
The move forced Ouray to foul Crested Butte to stop the clock and put them on the line in a pressure situation hoping they would break.
Crested Butte responded accordingly, hitting nine of 13 free throws led by Hargrove, who hit five of six down the stretch for the 61-50 win and the consolation bracket championship.
“We wanted to go out with a bang,” says Hargrove of the win. “It seemed like the perfect way to end the season. I just knew I could ice the game right there and I just wanted to help the team win.”
Wright finished the game with 24 points and was one of five players named to the Denver Post All-Tournament team.
“It was a tremendous game,” says Loyed. “I was never so proud of the guys as I was that third quarter. It was an incredible team effort. We were very pleased to come away with the consolation championship.”