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Boys hoops season comes to abrupt end

Suffer loss in first round of districts

by Than Acuff

I can’t lie. I’ve seen a fair number of Crested Butte Titans basketball losses over the past several years but the boys’ loss Tuesday night to Center in the first round of the post season may have stung the most.

Things were clicking for the Titans this year. They started executing the game coach Brandin Hamilton had been coaching and the personnel was in place with senior David Wasinger as a post player, and junior Joseph Cummins and senior Noah Dumas as perimeter threats. Senior Jake Monroe filled his role as a defensive specialist, Jovany Aguirre stepped into a starting position as a sophomore with a knack for rebounds and a deceptively potent shot and then a quality bench with sophomores Michael Winn, Tommy Linehan and junior Quinn Farnell all able to come off the bench to fill gaps and make key plays whether it was chasing down loose balls to set up baskets or scoring when everyone else was shut down.

The team started hitting their rhythm rattling off a handful of big wins as they started taking down perennial league stalwarts that had spent the past several years crushing the Titans.

The season took a brief turn for the worse on Friday, February 17 when they headed to Sargent and got handed a 61-29 loss.

“We had a horrible week of practice and just weren’t really ready for that game,” says Hamilton. “We weren’t ourselves and they jumped on us.”

Somehow though, after resorting to their old bad habits and losing, the Titans took the floor Saturday, February 18 to face Del Norte, the number two ranked team in the state, and came out guns blazing. The Titans jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first quarter attacking the basket and running their offense while Del Norte shooters struggled.

“We caught them off guard and that made Del Norte uncomfortable,” says Hamilton.

Del Norte came back to take the lead in the second half but Winn drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to breathe life back into the Titans upset hopes.

“We got a couple of guys that, when we needed big buckets, got them, and that’s what gave us a chance,” says Hamilton.

Del Norte’s star player caught fire in the second quarter and carried it into the third quarter to help Del Norte build a 12-point lead, but rather than fold and eventually lose by 20 points, the Titans battled back to cut the lead down to six points with a minute left. Del Norte ultimately held on for the 43-37 win as they managed to stave off a couple of last gasps from the Titans. The Titans got balanced scoring with Cummins coring 11, and Wasinger and Dumas each scoring 10.

“I thought it was a great game for us,” says Hamilton. “We were right there but we didn’t capitalize on the few chances we got. I think in that game we solidified our strategy offensively and what was working.”

While missing out on a huge upset to close the season was rough, the team played like it was ready for a postseason run and opened the playoffs against Center on Tuesday, February 21.

The first minute of the game told a different story though as Center came out determined to avenge their loss to the Titans earlier this year. Center built a 9-2 lead in the first minute before Hamilton called a time out to quash the rally. The Titans came out of the break to climb back paced by a couple of three pointers from Cummins and a 10 foot jumper from Winn to cut Center’s lead down to three by the end of the quarter.

Wasinger then went to town in the second quarter scoring seven points as well as kicking the ball out of traffic to Aguirre for a huge three-pointer. A steal then led to a lay up from Dumas to close the half and Crested Butte was up 22-19 going into halftime.

Aguirre hit another three-pointer in the early minutes of the third period and the Titans were poised to continue building on their lead. Center adjusted though as their top player started creating baskets, their big guys inside dominated the boards and their defense through Crested Butte out of sync.

“We never could get comfortable on offense,” says Hamilton.

Winn hit a couple more buckets but Center took control to take a 35-29 lead into the fourth quarter. Two more three-pointers from Aguirre sparked a comeback for the Titans as they tied the game 37-37 but untimely turnovers by the Titans and Center’s penchant for rebounding held the Titans back. Center hit a couple of free throws down the stretch to edge out a 49-47 win over Crested Butte. Aguirre led the team with 15 points, Wasinger finished with 14 and Cummins with 10 points.

“Offensively we were clunky and when we were up in the third quarter, we just stopped executing offensively,” says Hamilton. “Once Center took the lead, we just started clock-watching. It was so frustrating.”

Closing out his sixth year at the helm, Hamilton is proud of what his players accomplished this year.

“I think these guys played to their potential,” says Hamilton. “This year we proved that we could be on the court with anybody and that was fun.”

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