Injuries leave Titans scrambling
by Than Acuff
It was a rough weekend for the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team as they lost two games and one, potentially two, starters for the rest of the season to injury.
The team hit the road on Friday, December 15 to play the Ridgway Demons. The Demons have acquired quite a reputation during the start of the season, coming close to knocking off a couple of quality programs.
“I knew they’re playing pretty stingy defense and had a couple of close losses to good teams,” says coach Brandin Hamilton.
The Demons proved to be just what Hamilton expected. They opened with stout defense and worked slowly on offense to keep the pace of the game in check. In addition, the Titans struggled with their shooting, starting senior guard Joseph Cummins missed most of the second quarter with foul trouble and things just weren’t working in Crested Butte’s favor. They fell behind 24-6 by halftime.
“Ridgway really tried to slow the game down early, we were cold shooting and things weren’t bouncing our way,” says Hamilton. “It was a difficult start.”
Hamilton used the halftime break to try to get his team to regroup, knowing that nothing is ever out of reach.
“I felt like it was one of those games where we had the ability to pull back into it,” says Hamilton. “I went into halftime thinking if we get our composure back and get the guys to understand that, it was going to be a grind.”
Unfortunately, he had no idea of what would happen in the third quarter.
While the Titans came out of halftime re-energized, tragedy struck not once, not twice, but three times over. Two minutes into the third quarter Cummins picked up his fourth foul but scorekeepers had him down for five fouls so he was out of the game. Soon thereafter, starting junior Tommy Linehan crashed into the wall and broke his arm. And then, before Linehan had even left the gym, starting senior Michael Winn twisted his knee and joined Linehan on a trip to the hospital. Add in the fact that starting junior Tristan Davis was already out with an illness and the Titans were down four starters midway through the third quarter.
The Titans kept fighting and played the Demons even through the entire second half but the damage was done, both on the scoreboard and on the floor, as the Titans fell 51-29.
“The guys were really ramped up after all of that. We just weren’t able to recover,” says Hamilton.
Missing Linehan and Winn, but getting Cummins and Davis, albeit still sick, back into the line-up, Hamilton made a few shifts in his strategy as they took the floor in Mt. Olympus on Saturday, December 16 to face the Telluride Miners.
“I didn’t think we could hang with them man-to-man so I went with a 2-3 zone and my hope was that we could just turn it into a grind,” says Hamilton.
And, for the most part, that game plan seemed to be working throughout the first half. Junior Josh Merck crashed the defensive boards and juniors Alexander Dumas and Jovany Aguirre each found seams to the basket, breaking the trap down to put the Titans up 6-5. Telluride responded but the Titans closed the first quarter strong as Cummins hit a jumper and Aguirre pulled down an offensive rebound and scored for a 10-7 Titans lead heading into the second quarter.
Junior Ty Sherman added additional strength on the boards and key baskets in the second quarter and the Titans continued to grind despite troubles with shooting to carry a slim 19-17 lead into halftime.
“We had our chances to make runs and take a good lead but we had way too many turnovers,” says Hamilton. “That was just a matter of guys having to play in new positions.”
The Miners then took over in the third quarter as they got hot from three-point range. Sherman, Cummins and Merck all managed to score points throughout the quarter but when Telluride drained another three-pointer at the end of the quarter to go up 37-26, the Titans were noticeably depleted.
The Miners continued to attack in the fourth quarter to eventually drop the Titans 52-30.
“Ultimately they started hitting their shots and we kept toiling with an inefficient offense,” says Hamilton. “I really couldn’t be happier with the guys who stepped up and the minutes they played.”
The Titans head into the break looking to rebuild as they prepare for the start of league play in January.
“Hopefully we’ll get some quality practices over break,” says Hamilton. “The guys are into it, no one is holding their head down and there’s actually some good energy and that’s what we will work off of.”