Rebound from tough loss to cruise to win
by Than Acuff
After suffering a bruising loss to the Telluride Miners on Friday night, the Titan boys’ basketball team recovered to rattle off a big win over Cripple Creek on Saturday, instilling some much-needed confidence in the team.
The Telluride game was strange to say the least, as foul trouble eventually spelled the demise of the Crested Butte team.
The Titans opened the game running a clinical offense to set up open looks, both on the outside and in the paint. Ryan McCudden opened the game with a three-pointer and then slipped inside for two more. Telluride eventually responded, but when the Titans busted the Miners press for a couple of buckets by Jacob Munroe, they closed the first quarter with a 13-8 lead.
“We showed a lot of our ability early and we were playing the type of basketball we have been working towards,” coach Brandin Hamilton said.
The Titans opened the second quarter still in their groove as McCudden continued to slice to the hoop and Noah Dumas and Joseph Cummins each drained 12-foot jumpers for an 18-11 Titans’ lead. Then the fouls started to pile up on the Titans and chaos ensued as the Miners press took hold and Hamilton tried to keep his players from fouling out.
The Miners ended up shooting 15 of 17 from the free-throw line in the second quarter as Hamilton shuffled players in and out of the game to try to break the Miners press while avoiding continued foul trouble. Ultimately, Hamilton was handcuffed and the Titans managed just two starters on the floor at a time in the second quarter to try to manage the mounting fouls.
“We had a chance to stretch out a lead in the first half but foul trouble just crushed us,” Hamilton said. “The press was killing us because I couldn’t keep a team on the floor that could handle the press.”
Despite the horrid situation in the second quarter, the Titans were able to keep the game in check and went into halftime down just two points. Still, the foul situation had Hamilton concerned as they headed out for the second half.
“I was nervous at halftime because we were in such bad foul trouble,” Hamilton said.
Things went from bad to worse in the second half as one Miners player turned red hot while the Titans continued to struggle with the Telluride press. John Theis opened the half with a couple of big baskets inside and Dumas rattled off four points while McCudden dropped in another three, but Telluride answered back each time and then some, building a 46-39 lead over the Titans heading into the fourth quarter.
The Miners remained hot in the fourth quarter, hitting three more from three-point land and the Titans shooters struggled as Telluride slowly built a 15-point lead, eventually winning 60-47.
“I thought it was a winnable game but we just progressively got sloppier and were just pushing too hard,” Hamilton said. “There was just no rhythm to our offense and I felt like we could have used John more but we weren’t finding him.”
McCudden led the Titans with 12 points, followed by Dumas and Theis with eight points each.
When the Titans lined up the next day to host the Cripple Creek Pioneers, a renewed Crested Butte team took control early and maintained control all four quarters, to cruise to a 70-41 win.
“We went back to the drawing board: Start strong and maintain mental toughness throughout,” Hamilton said.
Everything was clicking for the Titans with McCudden hitting buckets, David Wasinger scoring and crashing the boards and Theis effective inside as the Titans built a 28-5 lead in the first quarter.
Hamilton spent the remainder of the game managing the lead and getting younger players varsity time. No matter who was on the floor, the Titans had little trouble holding their momentum all four quarters to close with the easy win. McCudden and Dumas were the leading scorers with 14 points each and Theis dropped in 12.
“They’re such a special group of players. They really bounced back,” says Hamilton.
The team returns to league opponents this week as they hit the road to face Del Norte on Friday, January 22 and then return home to host the Center Vikings on Saturday, January 23 at 4 p.m., a team that crushed the Titans earlier this year and are now ranked sixth in the state.
“I think we’re in a good place and Del Norte is a big game. It’s one of the teams we need to knock off,” says Hamilton. “We’d like to be able to pay Center back in our house.”