Fall on the road
by Than Acuff
For the fourth home game in a row, the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team emerged triumphant. While the first two showdowns at home were nail-biters, the Titans got the job done early cruising to a 48-29 win over the Cotopaxi Pirates on Thursday, February 2.
The road proved troublesome once again as they lost an away game to Sanford 48-31 on Saturday, but the Titans returned home to beat Ridgway 48-37 on Monday, February 6.
The Titans jumped out to a 13-2 lead against Cotopaxi paced by the efforts of David Wasinger in traffic and a couple of three-pointers from Noah Dumas and Joseph Cummins. The Titans cooled off at the close of the first quarter but came back out in the second quarter to rattle off five quick points, capped by a dish from Cummins to Tristen Davis cutting back door for a 21-6 Titans lead and closing the first half up 22-10.
Wasinger continued to dominate the boards at the start of the second half and Jovany Aguirre drained a three-pointer and stole the ball to feed Dumas up-court for another Titans two points to build a commanding 17-point lead.
But, just as Crested Butte was poised to put the game away for good, Cotopaxi battled back. A quick timeout from Cotopaxi cooled off the Titans and the Pirates came out of the break to score the next six points, while the Titans committed two turnovers, forcing coach Hamilton to call a timeout.
Crested Butte climbed out of their mid-quarter lull to close the third quarter strong as Dumas hit another three-pointer and knocked down two free throws for a 34-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“Cotopaxi was slowly and methodically getting back into the game so I told the guys during the timeout that we needed to use our speed and we did and kind of ran away with it,” says Hamilton.
Cotopaxi made one last gasp to open the fourth quarter and the game could have easily slipped away from the Titans had they not matched the Pirates’ effort.
Cotopaxi cut Crested Butte’s lead down to 11 points early in the fourth quarter and was pressing hard but Crested Butte countered, working the ball both inside and out. Cummins and Wasinger each sliced through the Pirate defense for lay-ups, Dumas knocked down another three-pointer and when Cummins dished a pass to Tommy Linehan inside for a bucket, the Titans were up 20 points and both teams went to their benches to finish the game as the Titans closed out the 48-29 win. Dumas and Cummins each scored 15 points with Wasinger adding in nine.
The Titans then looked to build off of their win by taking their talents on the road to face the Sanford Indians on Saturday, February 4. All season long the Titans have been knocking on the door of major upsets and Sanford was yet another opportunity to make some noise in the Southern Peaks league.
Sanford had other plans though, as they jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter. The Titans spent the next three quarters chipping away at Sanford’s lead, only to have Sanford surge when needed.
Crested Butte cut the Sanford lead down to seven points with five minutes left and was on the cusp of another late-game surge, but the tides turned on a charging call and cold shooting from the Titans as Sanford knocked down a couple of big three-pointers down the stretch to seal the 48-31 win. Cummins finished with 12 points and Wasinger with eight.
“They hit two threes and that’s when we had to go to high-risk, high-reward defense,” explains Hamilton. “It comes down to having a few things break your way and having a high level of consistency.”
The Titans closed out the frantic five-day stretch with a win Monday night over the Ridgway Demons. While confidence was high heading into the game, the Titans opened the game uninspired and were down 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
“We came out flat and we didn’t really do anything,” says Hamilton.
The Titans stepped up their game a little in the second quarter as Hamilton went to a 1-3-1 half-court press to create some energy on the floor. Dumas hit four of six free throws and had a couple of steals to open the quarter, Cummins knocked down another three-pointer, Aguirre slipped inside for a bucket and when Quinn Farnell hit a three-pointer high off the glass, the Titans were up 18-9.
Michael Winn came off the bench to score two more in traffic but a let-down at the end of the half by the Titans let Ridgway gain momentum heading into the break.
“We were playing junk defense and weren’t doing much offensively,” says Hamilton.
The Demons then erupted in the third quarter as they turned red hot on offense to erase the Titans’ lead and take over the game 25-22 midway through the third.
The game was teetering on the edge of disaster until Aguirre and Linehan took the bull by the horns to bring the Titans out of their funk. Both Linehan and Aguirre hit from the perimeter and Linehan pulled down a huge offensive rebound in the waning moments to set up a basket by Wasinger to salvage the quarter and pull within two of the Demons.
“Ridgway got hot and started playing inspired and we went into amnesia mode,” says Hamilton. “Jovany and Tommy were the spark—those two guys were huge.”
Following some terse words from the coaching staff, the Titans finally emerged from their funk to take over the game for good. Dumas hit a couple of three-pointers, the Titans went into full-court-pressure mode, Cummins dominated both on defense and offense and the Titans started crashing the offensive boards, eventually scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter alone to seal the 48-37 win.
“I told the guys to pick them up full-court, be aggressive, force mistakes and when we put a shot up go after the offensive boards,” says Hamilton. “We got hot and I’m glad we got the win.”
Cummins led all scorers with 17 points, Dumas scored 12 and Wasinger tacked on eight.
The Titans will head to Custer County on Friday and then return home on Saturday, February 11 to host South Park. Tip-off for the boys is at 4 p.m.