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Titans basketball splits games over weekend

“It was tough”

by Than Acuff

Just as it appeared the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team had shed their struggles down the stretch by taking down Custer County in overtime, they fell the very next day to the Center Vikings.

It had been a rough month for the Crested Butte Titans leading up to their game against Custer County on Friday, February 8. The last time they had won was January 5. And while they’d shown glimmers of talent over the course of a game, they had yet to put four solid quarters together to take the win, with games often derailed by ice-cold shooting.

Friday night things started off as well as could be expected as the Titans jumped out to a 13-4 lead in the first quarter. Then, shooting woes hit the Titans again as they went nearly 10 minutes without scoring.

“I looked up and we were down 17-13,” says coach Brandin Hamilton. “Cold shooting and we had no rhythm offensively.”

The Titans made a slight recovery to close the first half better and hold Custer County in check, and headed into the break to regroup.

“I used it as an opportunity to go over where to look for offense and they did a nice job in the second half and the ball started dropping,” says Hamilton.

As the second half progressed, the Titans were immersed in a back and forth battle with the teams notched in a tie at the sound of the final buzzer, forcing the game into overtime.

Crested Butte then ramped it up for one last time to take control of the game. Custer County came close in the final eight seconds of play down by three points and pressuring the inbounds, but a foul sent Tommy Linehan to the line and he knocked down the two free throws to seal the 50-45 win. Erik Wasinger led the Titans with 15 points.

“We got to the free throw line. Knocked down some shots and played tight defense,” says Hamilton. “It was a battle throughout the game and we played pretty solid overall.”

With the monkey off their backs, the Titans returned home to host the Center Vikings on Saturday, February 9, hoping to continue their winning ways.

The Titans looked erratic in the first quarter, mixing in quality minutes with defensive breakdowns as they fell behind 13-8. Center looked to tighten the screw on the Titans in the second quarter, building a 17-8 lead until one last surge by the Titans stemmed the Viking tide. Nico Marchitelli served up a nice dish pass to Linehan for two, and Juneau Barr knocked down two free throws and then closed the half with a buzzer beater from the three-point line to cut Center’s lead down to two.

“That really lifted us,” says Hamilton. “The theme at halftime was that we couldn’t have played worse and still we were only down by two, so let’s get our shots going.”

Crested Butte then took the game back to open the second half. Jovany Aguirre drained a couple of three-pointers, Ethan Bacani grabbed an offensive rebound and scored and Wasinger hit a big three midway through the third quarter for a 26-21 Titans lead.

“I think that kind of rattled Center a little bit,” says Hamilton.

But, in true high school basketball fashion, Center battled back as they pulled off a couple of steals and scored, and the two teams were tied 27-27 heading into the fourth quarter.

Marchitelli was knocked out of the third quarter with an injury but returned to the floor to open the fourth quarter with a vengeance, scoring a quick four points. Bacani and Aguirre each hit their free throws and Wasinger scored, was fouled and hit the free throw to put the Titans back on top 38-35. Marchitelli hit another Titans’ three but Crested Butte missed two easy lay-ups and Center’s relentless pressure soon took hold of the game. Rushed passes and flat feet added to the Titans’ fall and Center closed the game with a 9-0 run to hand Crested Butte a 46-41 loss.

“We were doing okay until crunch time,” says Hamilton. “Off the ball we didn’t really adjust to the open space and there was a funky feeling, a lack of confidence and no one seemed to want the ball. I think we just got really tight all of the way around. It was tough.”

The Titans will host their final home game of the season when they host South Park on Thursday, February 14, with tip-off at 7 p.m.

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