Enter district tournament as fifth seed
by Than Acuff
After cruising to an easy win over the Cotopaxi Pirates last week, the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team closed out the regular season losing to the number one 2A team in the state, the Sanford Indians, on Saturday, February 20. The Titans head into the district tournament this week as the sixth seed and are vying for a shot at regionals.
The Pirates posed little trouble for the Titans and it didn’t hurt to have Crested Butte’s shooters open the game red hot. Joseph Cummins kicked things off with a reverse lay-up, Noah Dumas and Ryan McCudden followed with three-pointers, Cummins dropped in one from behind the arc and John Theis was dominant inside, scoring a couple of easy buckets as the Titans built an early 15-4 lead.
The Titans continued to dominate at both ends of the court in the second quarter, with David Wasinger finding seams in the Pirate defense to score and pulling down rebounds, and Crested Butte was sitting on a comfortable 30-8 lead heading into halftime.
“That’s how you knock down shots,” coach Brandin Hamilton said. “I think Cotopaxi was a little disorganized and we took advantage of it.”
Hamilton then eased off the throttle in the second half to give his starters a rest, as they had two more games in the next four days, but Crested Butte’s mix of reserves and starters proved equally potent. Jovany Aguirre drained a three-pointer and Broderick Truettner continued his stand-out effort in the paint, grabbing rebounds and scoring points to seal the 50-23 Titans win. Dumas led the team with 11 points, including three baskets from three-point range.
“During this last stretch of games we’ve definitely worked with the reserves to make sure there’s not a let-down when they go in, and I was pretty happy with the way they handled that game,” Hamilton said.
The Titans then closed out the regular season at home in Mt. Olympus on Saturday, February 20 against the Sanford Indians. The Indians are on pace to win their third 2A state title in a row with a perfect record of 17-0, decimating all teams that stand in their way.
The Indians came out as they often do, looking to blow the game open early and cruise to a win, but Crested Butte was far more poised this time around and hung tight for most of the first quarter. McCudden scored five points in the first quarter to lead the Titans, including a three-pointer, and when Sanford switched to a press, the Titans were able to break it. But, the full-court pressure has an ulterior motive as well and when turnovers don’t happen immediately, the constant pressure can wear a team out and that’s exactly what happened.
Sanford went on an 11-0 run to close the first quarter and continued to charge in the second quarter, scoring numerous points of their explosive transition game to build a 41-14 lead by halftime.
“Fatigue and transition just killed us in the first half,” Hamilton said. “They transition really fast and that’s a huge advantage.”
The Titans adjusted and did a better job of getting back to try to slow down the Indians’ transition game and managed to get their half-court offense working at times. Both McCudden and Wasinger penetrated to take on Sanford’s stout defense and came up with a couple of buckets. Meanwhile, the Titans defense did what they could to hold off the Sanford assault, but the damage was done, as the Titans fell 63-31.
“I thought for two and a half quarters we played pretty good basketball,” Hamilton said. “I thought our half-court defense stood out and our guard play was a lot stronger.”
The Titans will now head into the district tournament and face Del Norte in the opening round this week. The second round will be on Thursday, February 25 with the top five teams from districts advancing to the regional tournament next week.
“The Del Norte game earlier this year was probably the low point of the season and we’re really excited to get a chance to play them again,” Hamilton said.