First home game this Friday
The first test of every Titans boys high school basketball season is the Lake County Invitational. Each year coach Brandin Hamilton takes his team to Leadville for some non-conference competition. The weekend provides Hamilton some insight into how his kids can handle pressure in a game situation, as they prepare to enter into league play in one of the toughest 2A leagues in the state.
Hamilton got his first look at his young crew during some scrimmages two weeks ago as the Titans took on Salida and Cotopaxi.
“I was looking to see what lineups had chemistry,” explains Hamilton. “See what worked, what didn’t and if some of the younger guys could compete at a varsity level.”
Unfortunately, neither Salida nor Cotopaxi was much of a challenge for the Titans.
“We didn’t play down to their level, which was good but it was easy to hide our weaknesses,” says Hamilton.
What Hamilton hoped to learn in the scrimmages, he soon found out in Lake County as the Titans dropped all three games.
They started the weekend off against host team Lake County on Friday, December 6. As is often the case, first game jitters held the Titans back through the first half as they struggled on offense.
“We weren’t really clicking—there was no purpose to our play,” says Hamilton.
In addition, the Titans struggled with foul trouble as starters Quinn Winter and David Wasinger had to sit for large stretches of the second quarter and Wasinger picked up another foul in the third quarter and was forced to sit some more.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Titans then lost starting point guard Joe Hayes to a concussion following the halftime break.
Nevertheless, Winter and a host of sophomores continued to battle and the Titans took a one-point lead in the fourth quarter before Lake County sealed the 55-48 win from the free-throw line.
“At moments, they did some really nice things but inexperience was our problem,” says Hamilton. “We got a taste of varsity play and figured out our weaknesses.”
Winter finished the game leading all players with 26 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Wasinger who dropped in eight points and grabbed six rebounds.
With that first game under their belt, the Titans looked to put together a more cohesive effort in their second game of the tournament. The only problem was, they had two things working against them before the game even started.
First of all, they would miss Hayes from the starting point guard position. Then, when they went out to start the bus for their 8 a.m. game, the battery was dead, leaving them a total of seven minutes to warm up for their game against Gilpin County.
Things went from bad to worse for the Titans as Gilpin County opened the game with a 1-3-1 half-court trap to take an early 13-0 lead.
“It was the first time they’d seen it in a game situation and everyone looked like they were in a foreign place,” says Hamilton.
A couple of timeouts and some adjustments later, Crested Butte managed to pull it together and played even basketball the remainder of the game, but the damage was done as Crested Butte lost 55-40.
“After that they did much better but we were really cold from the outside shooting,” says Hamilton.
Winter and Wasinger led the Titans scorers again with 18 and 12 points, respectively.
Unfortunately, just as the Titans were gaining steam, they ran into a buzz saw in the final game of the tournament when they tipped off against Monte Vista. Monte Vista has a top-level player inside and threw yet another zone defense at the Titans. Missing Hayes at point guard and with Winter’s hands full inside, Crested Butte never got into a rhythm, losing 72-30.
“Running the offense was difficult and on defense our confidence was low,” says Hamilton.
Overall, Hamilton chalks the three losses up to three main things—injuries, cold shooting and foul trouble, with plenty of other little things still left to work on as they prepare for the rest of the season.
“It’s apparent we’re young and learning how to compete,” says Hamilton. “But it was exciting to see the glimpses of talent we do have. It’s a really good group and everyone’s willing to work.”
The Titans host Ridgway on Friday, December 12 at 6 p.m. in mighty Mt. Olympus before they hit the road to play Ouray on Saturday.