Turnovers and inexperience spell Titans’ demise
by Than Acuff
For the past 12 years, give or take, the Crested Butte Titans boys’ basketball team has kicked off its season with the Lake County Invitational tournament in Leadville. The tournament draws an assortment of talent from 4A, 3A and 2A programs and gives coach Brandin Hamilton insight into his program before they hit league play.
“It’s a good tournament for us because it’s typically pretty appropriate competition,” says Hamilton.
Some years the Titans dominate. Some they don’t. Heading into the tournament this year, Hamilton knew it would be a tough run as he saw some of the teams over the summer and was well aware of the task at hand.
“I knew it was going to be a challenging weekend,” says Hamilton. “We spent the week leading up to it getting the basics in and what we needed to compete. Basically, game prep was the theme of the week.”
The Titans opened the weekend against host team Lake County and were able to exploit their 2-3 zone from the opening tip-off. Senior point guard Joseph Cummins lit up the scoreboard from the perimeter to pace the Titans to an early lead.
“When you play a 2-3 zone against us Joseph is going to score 15 points before you even know what happened,” says Hamilton. “He was hot and I don’t know if I saw him miss once in the first half.”
Lake County stayed with the Titans but thanks to the Titans’ defensive efforts, they managed to carry an eight-point gap the entire game to close out the 49-37 win, to open the tournament. Cummins led all scorers with 31 points.
“Nothing we did was really that smooth but ultimately our defense kept the cushion for us,” says Hamilton.
Next on tap for the Titans was Moffat County and the game played out as Hamilton had feared. Hamilton saw Moffat County over the summer and knew they would be a force and he saw that in the game in Leadville.
“They were fast, big and smart,” says Hamilton.
While the Titans starting five could hang with Moffat County, inexperience and turnovers allowed Moffat County to build a sizeable lead heading into halftime.
The Titans closed the gap to within six points in the third quarter but Moffat County eventually ran away with the game to win 72-39.
“We have a turnover problem and I have a lot of players but inexperience really hurt us,” says Hamilton.
The Titans then witnessed first-hand a style of basketball the players had never seen before when they tipped off against Eagle Valley to close out the weekend. It turns out Eagle Valley is looking to shake up the 4A class with a type of play reminiscent of the old Loyola Marymount days. That is, shoot early and shoot often and just try to run teams into the ground.
“They picked us up full court and their coach platooned players into the game five at a time,” explains Hamilton. “They would go hard for two minutes and then bring a new five into the game to do the same.”
Defense for Eagle Valley was relatively non-existent and the Titans went toe-to-toe through the first quarter, actually building a six-point lead, before Eagle Valley closed with a run to tie the game 19-19 after one quarter of play.
Eagle Valley continued to just run up court and launch three-pointers with some hitting nothing but net, some smashing off the backboard and some missing the mark entirely. But, in the end, the massive number of shots paid off for Eagle Valley as they scored 31 points in the second quarter alone to take a 50-32 lead into halftime.
The Titans recovered during the halftime break and opened the third quarter with a 14-0 run to pull within six points until fatigue and inexperience sank in, allowing Eagle Valley to continue their run and launch style of play, ultimately leading to a 92-69 win for Eagle Valley.
“We were seduced by their up and down game and couldn’t stick with it,” says Hamilton.
In the end Eagle Valley took a total of 105 shots, 75 of which were from three-point range and beyond. Despite shooting just 21 percent from three-point range, when a team shoots 75 of them in one game, 21 percent shooting eventually pays off.
“They were shooting from beyond the NBA three-point mark, it was wild,” says Hamilton. “And not even good shots.”
The game wrapped up what was a wild weekend for the Titans, one Hamilton expects to build off of in the coming weeks.
“It was a challenging weekend as expected and I think we learned a lot helping us to shape our practices in the coming weeks,” says Hamilton. “A couple of guys really stepped up, which is exciting, and we’re starting to figure out our varsity rotation.”
The Titans will be at home this weekend as they host Antonito on Saturday, December 9. Games start at 1 p.m. with the varsity boys tipping off at 4 p.m.