“We’ve built a culture of improvement and we could come in next year better than we finished this year”
by Than Acuff
It took most of the season for the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team to reach its potential but it eventually did when it mattered most, winning six of its last nine games to reach the 2A regional tournament.
“We started gelling as a team,” says coach Brandin Hamilton. “We started to play better defense and solidified our identity on offense and some players just started coming on at the end of the season.”
Unfortunately, the damage to their record earlier in the season meant they would be the last seed in their regional bid and ended up facing the number one team in the state for the third year running, the Sanford Indians. While anything is possible in the post-season, it would have taken a near-miracle for the Titans to pull off an upset of this magnitude.
“All you can do is go in with a game plan that gives you the best chance and hope you’re hitting on all cylinders and they’re hitting on half of them,” explains Hamilton. “The plan was to keep it as close as we could.”
The plan played out well for the opening minutes of the first quarter as the Titans executed long stretches of possession to set up shots and make the necessary stops on defense.
Down 7-3 with two minutes left in the first quarter, everything seemed copacetic, but the Indians bided their time, eventually erupting for 10 points in the final two minutes to go up 17-3.
It was hard for the Titans to remain focused on the original game plan and some additional hiccups gave up another run to Sanford. The Titans eventually reeled it in to reorganize and score 10 points in the second quarter, going into halftime down 32-13.
“We stuck with the game plan a little better and I told the guys, let’s keep grinding away and see what we can make of this,” says Hamilton.
The crushing blow came in the opening minute of the third quarter as Sanford drained back-to-back three-pointers, getting back to what they do every game—blow opponents out. Hamilton came into the game with a plan of using as much of his bench no matter what the outcome and he stuck with it through all four quarters.
“I wanted them all to play and get the guys experience in regionals,” says Hamilton.
While Sanford eventually rolled to a 64-22 win, Hamilton felt it was his team’s best game against the undefeated Indians all season.
“Overall I was happy with the effort of the guys and how they tried to stick with the game plan,” says Hamilton.
While the loss meant the end of the season for the Titans, Hamilton is happy with what he saw from his team as the year progressed.
“The highlight for me was how balanced we were and, even when we had a series of frustrating losses, it just brought the team closer,” says Hamilton.
Hamilton expects to build off of the strides the team made this year, since he’s losing just two seniors to graduation, one of whom was a starter.
“Next year we’ll be senior-heavy and we’ve taken the next step,” says Hamilton. “We’ve built a culture of improvement and we could come in next year better than we finished this year. We still have to put in the work but they’ve proven they want to put in the extra work.”