“The guys are smiling and feeling good”
What a week for the Titan boys basketball team. They got things rolling with a win over Custer County 10 days ago, followed that up with a win on Thursday, February 12 against Creede/Lake City and then closed out their best stretch of the season with a 41-26 win over the South Park Burros on Saturday, February 14.
Coach Brandin Hamilton had one major concern heading into his team’s game against Creede/Lake City.
“My main concern was that we would play down,” says Hamilton.
That initial concern was quickly laid to rest as the Titans opened up the first quarter hot. Three separate Titans scored the first three baskets. Creede/Lake City broke their scoreless drought four minutes into the game but the Titans came right back, working the ball inside and out to set up Noah Dumas for back-to-back three-pointers and a 12-5 lead.
“Overall I was happy with that first quarter,” says Hamilton. “We’ve working on better ball movement and it was good to see that.”
Poor rebounding was the main issue for the Titans throughout the first half. Fortunately, any time things started to get dicey, the Titans offense would turn it back on.
Once Creede/Lake City pulled within four, Hamilton moved to a “twin tower” set with 6’7” Quinn Winter and 7’ John Theis inside. The move paid off as Winter found some room inside to score the next six points to put the Titans out front 20-10.
Winter and David Wasinger then connected for the highlight of the year when Wasinger picked off a pass and broke free for an easy lay-up. Winter followed the play and rather than laying the ball in, Wasinger played the ball off the glass for Winter to follow with a two-hand slam. Still, the Titans could not pull away, taking a tenuous eight-point lead into halftime.
“We weren’t boxing out at all in the first half,” says Hamilton.
The Titans struggled in the opening minutes of the third quarter. While their defense was relatively intact, things were awkward on the offensive end.
“We just came out a little sticky on offense,” says Hamilton.
As a result, Hamilton called the team together to tweak the offense accordingly. The adjustments opened up Winter once again as he scored 10 points in the third quarter alone to help the Titans build a 19-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
Dumas kicked things off for the Titans in the fourth quarter with a three-point play to start and the Titans finished off Creede/Lake City 54-33.
The Titans finished the game with three players scoring double-digits. Winter led with another double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Dumas finished the game with 12 points, Wasinger with 10 and Joe Hayes added in six points.
“I was happy with what I saw, it was nice balanced scoring,” says Hamilton. “Any time you score 54 points against a zone defense while you’re working on being patient on offense is good.”
The Titans returned to the court on Saturday, February 14 to host the South Park Burros and, once again, a quick start led to another win for the Titans.
Led by a strong defensive presence and a patient offense, the Titans built a 17-2 lead midway through the second quarter. The Burros rallied to finish the first half with an 8-1 run and pulled to within six points of the Titans at the start of the third quarter before Winter and Wasinger connected for six points to rebuild a 10-point lead.
South Park looked to have the final say in the third quarter, hitting a three-pointer with time running out but the Titans charged immediately up-court and Wasinger dropped his defender and popped a three-pointer at the buzzer to regain the momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
The Burros came out in the fourth quarter, switching from zone defense to a man-to-man and the move initially stunted the Titans offense.
“I could tell the guys were losing their composure so I had to stop it and let them know that South Park can’t double-team Quinn when they’re in their man-to-man,” explains Hamilton.
Once again, adjustments were made and, once again, the Titans recovered, opening things up for Winter inside. South Park had played physical all game long and ramped it up at the end to try to rattle the Titans but Crested Butte hit the necessary free throws down the stretch to ice the 41-26 win, for their third win in a row.
Winter led all scorers again with 18 points, Wasinger scored another 10 and Dumas finished with eight points in the game.
“I was really proud of how the guys stayed composed under the physical nature of the game,” says Hamilton. “The guys are smiling and feeling good.”
Still, there’s more work to do if they want to keep the late-season run going. While the Titans have cut their turnover average nearly in half and they’re opening games fast, other issues continue to trouble Hamilton.
“David’s done a nice job taking over at the point and really sets the tone,” says Hamilton. “The guys have bought into playing defense and they’re looking so much better defensively, but we have to improve our boxing out and securing rebounds.”
The Titans will host their final home game of the season on Thursday, February 19 at 5 p.m. against Antonito. They will finish the regular season on Friday in Sanford and then will head into the district tournament on Tuesday, February 24 as the number five seed of eight teams.