Fans wanted for game in Alamosa
The Crested Butte Titans boy’s basketball team is just two games away from returning to the Elite Eight 1A state tournament for the second year in a row.
After finishing the regular season undefeated, the Titans roared through the district tournament winning all three games to earn the first district title in the school’s history.
After winning their opening district game on Tuesday, February 24 80-14 over Mountain Valley, the Titans headed to Adams State in Alamosa and put together back-to-back wins over Centennial and Creede on Friday and Saturday, February 27-28.
“It was a great weekend,” says coach Robin Loyed. “It was testy at times but the boys responded. It was a total team effort.”
The Titans started the weekend with a semifinal game against the Centennial Rams. While the Titans beat Centennial twice during the regular season, Loyed remained concerned about the impending match-up.
“They worried me,” says Loyed. “They have shown that they’re willing to do different things to try to throw us off.”
The Rams opened the first quarter running their classic three-man weave in an effort to open up shots from three-point range, as well as control the clock.
When the Titans managed to shut off their weave just outside the three-point range, Centennial pulled their play farther back, almost to half court, killing the clock and keeping the ball out of the Titans’ hands.
The ploy appeared to work as the Titans scored just six points in the first quarter, taking a slim 6-4 lead into the second quarter.
Centennial opened the second quarter with a three-pointer and two free throws to take a 9-6 lead before the Titans adjusted to rid themselves of the Rams’ ploy.
Having seen enough of the Rams’ game plan, the Titans stretched into a half court zone trap, forcing the Rams to abandon their initial game plan. Once the Rams weave was disrupted, the Titans exploded, led by senior Robbie Holleran.
Holleran dominated the boards on offense, often following on his own shots for second chances. Senior John Wright buried a three-pointer to give the Titans a 17-12 lead.
Continued hustle from Holleran carried the team on offense, while the Titans’ team defense handcuffed the Rams and the Titans took a 25-14 lead into the half.
Crested Butte put the game out of reach in the third quarter, outscoring the Rams 18-8, and then sealed the win, hitting 17 free throws in the fourth quarter for a 62-38 win.
Holleran led the team with 26 points and 16 rebounds, Wright scored 17 and pulled down 10 boards and sophomore Jake Grogg had a breakout performance with eight points, five assists and four blocks.
The Titans had one more team standing in the way of their first-ever district title, the Creede Miners. While the Titans were 2-0 against Creede thus far, neither win came without a struggle.
The third meeting was another battle for Crested Butte as the Miners completely shifted gears on defense to disrupt Wright’s offensive prowess.
“We knew what we wanted to do and Creede throws a curveball at us and plays a box-in-one against John,” explains Loyed.
While Creede’s efforts managed to hold Wright in check, they opened the door for senior Chris Sharpe to rain down from three-point range.
Sharpe opened the game scoring 11 of the Titans’ 13 points in the first quarter, leading Crested Butte to a three-point lead.
The Miners remained within striking distance though, hustling for loose balls and pulling down offensive rebounds to get follow-up opportunities to score and stay within five points of the Titans at the end of the second quarter.
Loyed used the break to explain to his team how close they were to blowing their shot at a district title.
“We just weren’t playing with the energy I thought we should have,” says Loyed. “I reminded them that this was our chance and it was slipping away.”
Holleran and Wright ignited the Titans offense in the third quarter as Crested Butte scored 19 points to build an eight-point lead with one quarter to play.
The Titans then switched to their spread offense in the fourth quarter and relied on their free-throw shooting to finish off Creede for the 57-47 win and the district title.
Sharpe finished the game as the leading scorer with 19 points, Holleran had 13 points, 13 rebounds and six steals, Wright broke free for 13 points and Grogg continued his stellar play with eight points and five rebounds.
“Jake just started playing quality basketball,” says Loyed. “He had a big impact the entire weekend. The good thing about the weekend from my point of view was balance and everyone contributing.”
Now, with a district title to their name and a record of 22-0, the Titans are headed to the first round of the 1A state tournament against Eads, the number four seed from District 2.
“It’s going to be a very tough game,” says Loyed. “Eads is a seasoned playoff basketball team.”
The Titans face Eads on Friday, March 6 at 1 p.m. at Adams State College in Alamosa. If they win, they will play on Saturday, March 7 at 11 a.m. A win there will send the Titans back to the Elite Eight of the 1A state tournament for the second year in a row.