“This could be the one”
All season long the Crested Butte Titan girls basketball team have been on the wrong side of numerous lopsided games. They came into the year young and inexperienced with some of the top 2A teams in the state in their league, so coach Mike Moran knew it was going to be tough.
But when you’re losing games by scores such as 62-11, 48-9 and 57-14, things can get a bit dark. Not for the Titans. Week in and week out, Moran touted the resiliency of his team and maintained that despite the way the season was going, he and the girls remained focused on improving.
Once again, after losing to Custer County 10 days ago, the Titans returned to the gym floor the following Monday to continue their development as individuals and as a team preparing for their final five games of the season. While Moran and the team knew they would continue to be underdogs, they were determined to find a way to win.
Heading into their game Thursday, February 12 against the Creede/Lake City Pioneers, that confident mentality manifested itself before the game even started.
Assistant coach Lis Collins said before the girls even started warming up, “This could be the one.”
Parent/fan Chris Kopf took it up another notch saying, “Just write down a big W, this is the one.”
Were those comments simply an attempt at mind over matter? A case of, “Do or do not—there is no try.”
“The girls were very confident but I was just hoping they would play well,” says Moran. “I knew it would be a tough game.”
No matter what the impetus for that confidence may have been, it spilled over onto the court as the Titan girls basketball team put together their first complete game of the season to roll to a 37-24 win.
With trouble scoring in their half-court offense all season, Moran spent the past two weeks switching gears, implementing a press in an effort to try to set up easier broken-play buckets. That plan played out well in the opening minutes of the quarter as Creede/Lake City had some trouble initially but the Titans struggled to convert points from their full-court pressure.
Midway through the first quarter, it appeared the Titans were destined for another loss as unforced turnovers allowed Creede/Lake City to jump out to an early lead.
Courtney Kopf breathed some life into the Titans offense, hitting an eight-foot jumper but a Pioneers three-pointer had them ahead and poised to pull away before Moran called a timeout.
“I was just trying to wake them up,” says Moran. “I told them that they’ve got to open it up—quit playing scared and get after it, and they responded.”
The Titans hit the reset button during the break and put together an 8-2 run paced by five points from Sydney Buehler for an 11-9 Titans lead by the end of the first quarter.
They continued to pour it on at the start of the second quarter as Tara Mortell hit a jump shot, Buehler drained two free throws and Sydney Petersen sliced through the Creede/Lake City defense for a lay-up and a 17-9 lead.
Creede/Lake City responded, hitting another three-pointer and closing out the half with a couple of free throws, but a basket from Buehler kept the Titans’ four-point lead intact at the halftime break.
“I talked about playing smart and about setting the tone the first three minutes of the second half,” says Moran.
The Titans did just that as their pace and defense held Creede/Lake City scoreless the entire quarter. Kopf sank another jumper and when Buehler hit her second three-pointer of the game, the Titans were ahead 29-18 with eight minutes between them and their first win of the season.
“We’re still learning along the way and I told them the clock was what we were playing against at that point,” says Moran.
If Creede/Lake City was going to mount a comeback, they would have to start in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but the Titans had other plans. Buehler hit one of three free throws to open and the Titans pulled down the rebound on the final miss to set up Mortell for a 12-foot jumper and a 32-18 lead.
But this was unchartered territory for the young Titans team and nerves appeared to get the best of them as they fell into old bad habits of unforced turnovers and rushing their offense.
Moran took another timeout to settle the team and the Titans returned to their potent ways as Ariel Kilpatrick battled for two points in the paint and Erika Bremer came back on the floor to hit a 10-foot jumper, icing the Titans’ 37-22 win. Buehler finished the game with 16 points to lead all players, Kilpatrick finished with six and three other players added in four and three points.
While the Titans were handed another sound defeat two days later at the hands of the South Park Burros, the win provided the team just what they needed as they head into the final week of the season.
“It was a good win and they needed it so bad,” says Moran. “They never let up.”
Unfortunately, the celebration ended two days later as they ran into a buzz-saw against the South Park Burros. Down just 9-3 at the end of the first quarter, the game was well within reach but South Park kept pushing hard to take the weary Titans down 53-11.
“I was really disappointed by that,” says Moran. “We had chances to get back in the game but couldn’t put it down. We were just dead-legged. We still have a lot to work on breaking down pressure.”
The Titans hit the road to play Cotopaxi on Tuesday, February 17 and will host their final home game of the season on Thursday, February 19 at 3:30 p.m. The Titans close league play against Sanford on Friday, February 20 before they will enter the district tournament on Tuesday, February 24 as the number eight seed.