“Overall this group has potential”
by Than Acuff
It was a rough week for the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team as they dropped two games the in four days, falling to Lake County on Tuesday, December 18 and then losing to the Ridgway Demons on Thursday, December 20.
The Titans opened the final stretch of games before the holiday break in Leadville against the Lake County Panthers. Lake County plays a high-pressure game, looking to force turnovers and score points, which can rattle teams. The Titans did fine with the pressure initially as they held Lake County in check and limited them to just five points in the second quarter to enter halftime tied 19-19.
“We handled it really well and I thought we were in a good place at halftime,” says coach Brandin Hamilton.
The two teams traded off baskets in the third quarter but things started to unravel for Crested Butte as the Panthers built an eight-point lead. The Titans adjusted and surged back to tie it up with two minutes left but the constant pressure and high pace eventually took their toll on Crested Butte. Lake County scored 11 points in the final 90 seconds of the game to pull away for the 53-41 win.
“They hit some tough shots. We didn’t do a very good job with our defensive rotation and we just lost control of the game,” says Hamilton.
The Titans returned home and the energy was high in Mt. Olympus on Thursday, with plenty of Titan alumni in the house and the extended Hobart family visiting from across the pond. The Titans seemed to feed off of that in the opening minutes of the game as they jumped out to a 7-0 lead on Ridgway, paced by the rebounding efforts of Murphy Smith, a basket and a couple of assists from Ethan Bacani, a bucket from Tommy Linehan and a three-pointer from Jovany Aguirre.
The Demons came back to cut into the Titans’ lead but big baskets from Ty Sherman held Ridgway in check and helped carry Crested Butte to a 12-10 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“I feel like we were doing all right with playing with an identity,” says Hamilton. “They started off cold and we started off pretty good.”
Crested Butte opened the second quarter with an 8-2 run as Josh Merck knocked down six straight points and Juneau Barr pulled down an offensive rebound and scored to put the Titans up 20-12. Ridgway recovered to respond scoring on a couple of trips up the floor but Sherman hit two free throws and slipped inside for two more points off an assist from Aguirre, and the Titans were up 26-18 heading into halftime.
“We played confidently in the first half and were playing our game,” says Hamilton.
The game got away from Crested Butte in the third quarter as Ridgway outscored the Titans 14-4 and then tacked on five more points at the start of the fourth quarter to go up 37-30.
“They were hitting everything and as soon as they started scoring, we lost our confidence and our rhythm,” says Hamilton.
A couple of free throws, a jumper from Aguirre and a three-pointer from Eric Wasinger had the Titans pull back within three points and flirt with a late-game recovery. Unfortunately, Ridgway’s transition game, rebounding and continued hot shooting kept the game out of the Titans’ reach as Crested Butte lost 48-39.
“Their break got more crisp in the second half and we were missing shots so they had more opportunities to break up court,” says Hamilton. “Plus they got a lot of contribution from their bench.”
The Titans will take a small break for the holidays with five workouts planned, and then will return to action on January 5.
“Overall this group has potential,” says Hamilton. “We’re in a position to win every one of these games. We just can’t get over the hump.”