Home opener this Friday at Mt. Olympus
The Crested Butte Titans basketball team was thrown into the lion’s den this past weekend, competing in the Lake County Invitational in Leadville.
Matched up against schools twice and three times their size, the Titans knew they were in for a long weekend. But after a devastating loss in the first game Friday night, the Titans rallied to win their next two games for an overall successful weekend.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how much they grew up over the three games,” says coach Robin Loyed. “After that first loss we could have given up but instead we came out and showed those guys that Crested Butte is to be contended with.”
The opening game was rough for the Titans, as they took the floor Friday night against Battle Mountain, a 4A program favored to win their league in the I-70 corridor.
“They were big, athletic and looked like a really good 4A team,” explains Loyed. “I think the guys were a little shell shocked.”
While the Titans defense played fairly well against the 4A onslaught, their offense was shaky at best committing 28 turnovers and shooting a scant 20 percent from the floor.
“It was just a long night,” says Loyed, “a real tough opener for us.”
Sophomore Anton Peck led the Titans with 14 points and four rebounds and senior Jake Grogg threw in five points and pulled down seven boards.
Following the game, Loyed gave his team 15 minutes to dwell on the loss and then never mention it again, turning their attention to the next two games on Saturday.
A renewed Titans team rebounded for their first game on Saturday against Lake County with everyone contributing to the 56-42 win.
“We really played much better,” says Loyed. “Guys that were invisible on Friday stepped up.”
Junior point guard Henry Linehan ran the Titans offense, penetrating the lane all game long and either dishing off for easy buckets or pulling up for the short jumper.
Sophomore Luis Aguirre added fuel to the Titans’ fire, coming off the bench and displaying some intensity up and down the court.
“He played outstanding defense and came up with every loose ball,” says Loyed. “He really brought some energy to the line-up.”
The twin towers of Grogg and Peck dominated in the paint, with Grogg scoring a team-leading 18 points and Peck registering his first double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Linehan finished the game with nine points and seven assists and junior Sky Egelhoff and senior Emmett McFarland tossed in seven points apiece.
The Titans closed the weekend with a gut check, battling to a 26-24 win over 3A Florence.
Florence brought a unique and slow style of game to the court circling their wagons around their 6’5” center both on offense and defense.
As a result, the Titans man-to-man defense stymied Florence’s offense, leaving them confused.
With the big guy in the middle on defense, the Titans were forced to score from the perimeter and Egelhoff and freshman Graham Koval delivered, hitting a series of key three-pointers to lead the Titans to a 15-10 lead by halftime.
After leading the entire game, the Titans crumbled under the pressure of a full court press by Florence in the fourth quarter.
Florence cut the Titans lead down to two points with three minutes left and then pulled ahead 24-22 with a minute to play.
Grogg tied the game 24-24 and then Egelhoff hit two free throws to put the Titans back on top 26-24 with 30 seconds left.
The Titans defense came through in the end to seal the win, denying Florence a clean look at the basket in the waning seconds of the game.
“To step up and get the win showed heart and character,” says Loyed. “We found a way to win a different kind of game.”
The Titans start regular season play this Friday, December 11 at home as they host league opponent Centennial, tip off is at 6:30 p.m. The Titans then hit the road to face seventh ranked Creede on Saturday, December 12.
“Centennial is scrappy, they press and run the floor. It won’t be an easy game,” says Loyed. “Creede at Creede is going to be a huge challenge. They are going to be a test.”