“It was a good team win and that’s what I like most about it”
by Than Acuff
The holiday break can stop a team in its tracks or offer an opportunity to revamp, rebuild and come out re-energized. The latter was the case for the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team as they dropped a couple of tough losses heading into the holidays but spent the time over the break to refocus and opened the rest of the season with a road win over Creede on Saturday, January 5.
“It was a really productive break and most of the guys were around,” says coach Brandin Hamilton. “We were able to work on communication and offensive and defensive consistency.”
All of that work almost went out the window though, as the team lost four players, including key varsity players Tommy Linehan and Juneau Barr, for the Creede game.
“That was less than ideal,” says Hamilton. “Tommy and Juneau were going to be big parts of our game plan going in against Creede.”
Yet, despite the missing players, the rest of the team showed up obviously prepared for the showdown as they opened the first quarter firing on all cylinders. Creede pressed to open but the Titans managed to break it with relative ease. In addition, they were able to generate some additional points from their half court offense.
“We were able to finish off of the press break and in our half court offense,” says Hamilton.
Unfortunately, Creede’s main scorer was also on fire and while the Titans racked up 16 points, Creede responded with 14 to keep the game tight.
“We looked pretty crisp and energetic,” says Hamilton. “We knew about their top scorer—we were just caught off guard a little at how good he really was.”
Both teams made adjustments in the second quarter to try to create an advantage but both teams remained spot-on in their efforts and they continued to trade baskets with the Titans, taking a three-point lead into halftime.
“The game sort of slowed down a bit and both of us had longer possessions,” says Hamilton. “It was a good game and the teams were evenly matched.”
Crested Butte opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run, eventually building a double-digit lead and maintaining their buffer, scoring from both inside and outside to take a nine-point lead into the fourth and final quarter.
While Crested Butte maintained the consistency that they worked on over the break for three quarters, they stumbled through the start of the fourth quarter, allowing Creede to close the gap. Creede started things off strong and cut the Titans’ lead down to five points, putting a little fear in Crested Butte.
“The bottom fell out a little bit as we struggled playing with a lead like that,” says Hamilton.
But before Creede could get too close, Crested Butte recovered to rattle off several solid offensive possessions, working both inside and out, and they were back on top by 13 points with two minutes left to play.
Then things started to fall apart again for Crested Butte as the intense pressure, frequent fouling and hot shooting created the perfect storm for Creede. Missed free throws, open layups and bad fouls by Crested Butte allowed Creede to climb back to within four points with a minute left to play.
But, just as the Titans had done all game, players stepped up when they were needed most. Down the stretch Nico Marchitelli came up big with a couple of key offensive rebounds and a tip that forced a turnover to stop Creede in their tracks.
The Titans managed the clock for the final 30 seconds and finished off the 51-48 win. Eric Wasinger led the Titans with 12 points with Ty Sherman, Josh Merck and Marchitelli scoring 10 points each. Marchitelli also finished the game with 11 boards for the double-double.
“It was a very positive night and I got contributions from everyone,” says Hamilton. “It was a good team win and that’s what I liked most about it.”
The Titans now have back-to-back big league showdowns as they head to Del Norte on Friday, January 11 and then host Sanford in mighty Mt. Olympus on Saturday, January 12. Tip-off is at 1 p.m.
“Things get real now,” says Hamilton.