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Titan boys hoops takes down Center

“That was a fun high school basketball game”

by Than Acuff

With all of the cancellations, rescheduled games and the conclusion of finals week, it’s hard to believe the Titans were ready to pull off what transpired Saturday, January 21 in mighty Mt. Olympus, but they did. After four quarters of back-and-forth basketball, it came down to the final possession as Joseph Cummins drained a three-point shot with 20 seconds left to secure the 53-50 Titans win over Center.

Then again, having missed so many games, maybe the Titans were poised to break loose with their best game of the season.

“I felt like we were ready for Center but with that much time off, it’s really hard to tell,” says coach Brandin Hamilton.

The first five minutes of the game looked as if the long stretch without contests had a debilitating affect on the Titans. Erratic play on offense and loose hands led to an 8-2 deficit before Hamilton called a time-out.

“We were fine, we just needed to settle in and you could see the rust and maybe some nerves, so the time-out was basically just to tell them they were fine,” says Hamilton.

Following the break, the Titans took control of the game for the remainder of the quarter. David Wasinger drove through traffic to score, was fouled and hit the free-throw for a three-point play and Cummins knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game 8-8.

Noah Dumas then opened the second quarter with a three-pointer and the Titans were setting the pace up and down the floor. Center squeaked in a free throw and a bucket but when both Dumas and Cummins hit additional three-pointers, the Titans were up 17-11 midway through the second quarter.

A slew of turnovers by the Titans then turned the tide in Center’s favor as they rattled off seven straight points to retake the lead 18-17. The game then turned back in Crested Butte’s favor as back-to-back charging calls on Center cooled off the Vikings.

“We’d been working on charges a lot and now the guys are looking for them,” says Hamilton. “We were getting charges on arguably one of the best players in 2A.”

Center connected for one more three-point play but a lay-up from Cummins and three free throws from Dumas at the end of the half put the Titans back on top 22-21 going into halftime.

“It was just us fighting us, really,” says Hamilton. “ We’re having longer stretches when we play smart but we still have lulls.”

Continued attacks from behind the arc by Cummins and Dumas helped open up the inside game, allowing Wasinger to tack on four more points in traffic as the Titans built a 35-29 lead four minutes into the second half. But Center battled back and in the course of the third quarter, both teams were on full attack with neither stepping up their defense. The erratic play worked in Center’s favor by the close of the third quarter as they edged out a 38-37 lead heading into the fourth.

“Sometimes quarters just go that way,” says Hamilton. “We got up a couple of points and the kids got a little excited and started gambling on defense.”

For the third quarter in a row, the Titans opened with a three-pointer as Dumas squared up and drained one from deep. A Titan’s steal and pass up-court to Dumas led to another basket and the Titans were rolling, but the Vikings refused to fold. Center scored on their next two possessions to tie the game 45-45 when Hamilton called a time-out.

Tommy Linehan slipped into traffic to score a basket inside but Center responded. Quinn Farnell’s hustle continued to create opportunities and he knocked down one of two free throws, and when the Titans stole the ball and Cummins tossed it up-court to Wasinger for a lay-up, the game was tied 50-50 with two minutes left in regulation.

Dumas took another charge to get the ball back with a minute left and force Center’s top player out of the game as he picked up his fifth foul, setting the stage for a Titans win. But a turnover gave away their first chance at the final shot and Center called a time-out to set up for the final possession.

With the Titans defense working hard, Center worked the perimeter with a series of passes to find an open lane to the hoop. A pass inside found a Center player cutting to the basket, but Dumas stepped in front to take another charge, giving the ball back to Crested Butte with 46 seconds left to play. Hamilton promptly called a timeout.

“It crossed my mind to try to hold the ball for the last shot but that doesn’t really work against a 1-3-1,” explains Hamilton. “So I chose to run a smooth, aggressive play and to just get the lead so we set up a play and it worked—it just took longer than we expected.”

Crested Butte brought the ball up-court and set up looking for the final shot. The chance came with 20 seconds left as Farnell got a pass and saw a trap coming on, so he kicked the ball out to Cummins per the designed plan and Cummins hit another three-pointer to put Crested Butte on top 53-50 before Center called its final time-out with 13 seconds left.

“Joseph was just on fire. What a great play for that kid,” says Hamilton.

Tight defense from the Titans left Center little opportunity but they threw up a shot that missed its mark, and Jovany Aguirre pulled down the rebound and held on as the final buzzer sounded to close out the 53-50 Titans win.

“We knew if they got the ball in three-point range not to foul and we just stayed up high on the three-point line,” explains Hamilton. “Three of their guys touched the ball and we didn’t foul and made them take a tough shot. The guys did it perfectly. That was a fun high school basketball game.”

The Titans face three tough opponents with a game against Telluride that was on Tuesday in Telluride, then the Titans head to Del Norte on Friday, January 27 to play the top team in their conference. They then return home Saturday to host the second-place team in the conference, Sargent.

“There all tough games for sure and we’ll really get to see where we are,” says Hamilton.

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