“It was one of the best victories I’ve been a part of”
Once the Crested Butte Lady Titans basketball team gets to full strength, they should be a force to be feared. Despite being hampered by illnesses this past week, the Lady Titans rallied to a couple of league wins, climbing their way into fifth place in the league standings with two weeks left in the regular season.
Coach Mike Moran had a skeleton crew the start of last week as illness ran rampant through the Petri dish of the Crested Butte Community School. Nevertheless, he managed to put together a workout on Tuesday to prepare for the team’s trip to the San Luis Valley to face the Sierra Grande Panthers on Wednesday, February 5.
“We had three girls at practice that week and I didn’t know how we were going to do it,” says Moran.
The showdown with Sierra Grande was intense and the two teams traded off scoring to finish the first quarter locked in an 11-11 tie.
Sierra Grande opened the second quarter with a seven-point run but before they could put the Lady Titans away, Crested Butte battled back to score the final five points of the half as the Panthers carried a slim 18-16 lead into halftime.
Crested Butte came out swinging in the third quarter led by Shannon Costello. Costello scored 10 of her game leading 22 points in the third quarter and the Lady Titans pulled ahead 30-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
At that point the game came down to who wanted it more. The Lady Titans built a five-point lead with four minutes left but the Panthers turned on their full court press to climb back in the game. Holding off the comeback in the Panther’s gym took everything the Lady Titans had. Ali McGuire drained a key basket before things got out of control and Costello hit all four of her free throws down the stretch to ice the 4037 Lady Titans win.
“Everyone contributed in that game,” says Moran. “They showed a lot of heart in that one. We’ve got a team going now.”
That same team energy would play heavily in Crested Butte’s favor two days later as they hosted the South Park Burros in mighty Mt. Olympus on Friday, February 7.
South Park looked strong on paper, sitting near the top of the Southern Peaks standings. In addition, South Park was hot off a win over Center, a team that had beaten the Lady Titans earlier this season.
“I knew they would be tough and I told the girls we had to play our best game of the year,” says Moran.
The Lady Titans were thrown a curveball prior to the game as South Park requested the time be bumped up 30 minutes to accommodate their drive home that evening. As South Park warmed up, Crested Butte was scrambling to get their team out of class and dressed for the game.
It was then that senior leadership played a big role off the court.
“Suzanna [Dumas] just told the girls, ‘Let’s do this,’ and got them going in the locker room,” says Moran.
Moran also noticed something in the Burros watching them warm up, sensing a casual atmosphere from the Burros.
“I think they were expecting to beat us,” says Moran.
After a somewhat sluggish start by the Lady Titans, they flipped a switch two minutes into the game pushing the pace with defensive pressure and showing patience on offense. Four different Lady Titans scored in the first quarter as they built an 11-6 lead. South Park responded in the opening minute of the second quarter and looked to take back control of the game but Crested Butte maintained their focus on running a patient offense and pushing the pace in the open court.
Costello drained a three-pointer, McGuire dished a pass inside to Elizabeth Kilpatrick for two more and Madeline Pulley battled for loose balls to keep the Lady Titans on target. Dumas and Kilpatrick added two more baskets and a steal led to a lay-up from Costello at the end of the half to keep the Lady Titans back on top 24-16.
Once again, Crested Butte came out of halftime amped up to dominate the third quarter, out-scoring the Burros 14-5. Kilpatrick scored eight points and took charge and the Lady Titans defense forced numerous Burro turnovers to build a 38-21 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“I think we had so much confidence then,” says Moran. “We showed that we could beat this team by playing our style and pushing the pace.”
Crested Butte switched into their motion offense to work the clock down in the fourth quarter and managed to work the ball through the Burro press. Additional risk-taking by South Park opened up baskets inside by Dumas and Kilpatrick and Crested Butte’s up-tempo game opened up additional broken play baskets as the Lady Titans finished off the Burros 45-30. Kilpatrick led the team with 15 points and 10 rebounds with everyone contributing at both ends of the court.
“It was one of the best victories I’ve been a part of,” says Moran. “It’s really starting to click. They’ve been working hard and they sure had a great game.”
The Lady Titans head to Antonito this Friday before returning home to host Sangre de Cristo on Saturday, February 15 in mighty Mt. Olympus. Games start at high noon.