Battle through with just eight players
By Than Acuff
The cards were stacked heavily against the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team as they headed to Leadville for the Lake County Invitational on Friday and Saturday, December 2-3.
Not only were they down to eight players for the three-game tournament; hazardous roads on the way to their first game meant slow going so they ended up arriving for the first game Friday just 20 minutes before tip-off against host team Lake County.
“There were already a lot of nerves about the first game of the season and then they were cold and stiff,” says coach Brandin Hamilton.
Fortunately, the lack of warm-up did not factor into the game as the Titans opened up a 13-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. While shots were missing their mark, the Titans’ effort on the boards and on defense proved to be the difference early on and throughout most of the game.
“Our shots didn’t fall but we got a lot of easy second chances,” says Hamilton.
The Titans still looked rough around the edges though, and when the shots continued to miss their marks, Hamilton adjusted the game plan and the Titans managed to hold off any chance at a Lake County comeback to cruise to a 40-23 win. David Wasinger led the team with 14 points, followed by Jovany Aguirre and Noah Dumas with seven points each.
“No one looked that good out there or comfortable, so I played conservative to maintain the 10-point lead,” says Hamilton. “As a coach I was just trying to manage the lead. I was happy with their effort.”
The Titans then woke up bright and early the next morning to face Moffat County. Hamilton knew Moffat County had a couple of big guys inside and one in particular who could dominate a game, so he turned to Wasinger to shut their top player down.
“David’s main job was to keep their guy from touching the ball in the post and blocking him out,” says Hamilton. “He was able to keep that guy off the glass for most of the game.”
The teams traded off baskets throughout the first quarter with Moffat County having the last say tying the game with a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Titans remained composed despite the last-second strike and the game continued to go back and forth before the Titans took a slim three-point lead into halftime, paced by the effort of Aguirre, who scored 12 points in the first half alone.
“He was just knocking down bucket after bucket,” says Hamilton.
Moffat County retook the lead in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter but the Titans tied the game 40-40 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter and then took control of the game with a 9-0 run and outscoring Moffat County 18-10 in the fourth quarter to win 53-44.
Aguirre had a breakout game leading the team with 17 points. Wasinger put up double digits again scoring 15 points, followed by Dumas with 13 and Joseph Cummins with eight.
“It was a grind-type of game and we imposed our will on them and were in better shape,” says Hamilton. “They threw four different defenses at us and we just had to be really good about being patient. We didn’t get flustered and try to force things.”
The Titans closed out the weekend against powerhouse Eagle Valley. Eagle Valley had several advantages over the Titans. They were much taller with a much deeper bench, and after grinding to the win over Moffat County, the Titans were just too depleted to give Eagle Valley a run.
Eagle Valley opened up a big lead in the first quarter and held it throughout the entire game, eventually taking down the Titans 85-50.
“The difference in the score was related to us being so tired,” says Hamilton. “We executed really well at times but it wasn’t something we could sustain.”
Ultimately Hamilton was happy with his team’s effort through the tournament, especially the younger players, and looks forward to their game this weekend on the road against Antonito.
“I was really happy with their execution, given that it was the start of the season,” says Hamilton. “We’re still inconsistent but it’s starting to come together and we’re playing better defense than we did last year.”