Look to pull off post season upset
by Than Acuff
The hope was that the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team would close out the season with a couple of wins and earn a home game in the first round of the district tournament. But hopes were dashed as the Titans fell to both the South Park Burros and the Sargent Farmers and will spend the first round of the district tournament back in Sargent.
Crested Butte was coming off a tough loss to Center the week prior but coach Brandin Hamilton had plenty of film on South Park and knew what needed to get done to knock the Burros off when they hosted them in Mt. Olympus on Thursday, February 14.
“We needed to be able to score against their zone, handle the pressure and keep them off the boards,” explains Hamilton. “They play a physical unorthodox brand of basketball and we needed to keep them off of that.”
Being the last home game of the season, Hamilton gave the seniors their proper due, starting all five of them for the game and while the Titans struggled with finding some cohesion on the court, the quarter closed out with Juneau Barr scoring inside off a pass from Josh Merck to pull within three points.
“The first quarter was a little weird and we never really got going,” says Hamilton.
Once the team got back to their usual rotation on the court, the hope was they would start clicking but South Park continued to keep Crested Butte off balance. The Titans recovered enough to pull off a nine-point scoring run to close the half though, and were down just 18-17 at the half.
“We never really established a way to attack their zone and were having a heck of a time keeping them off the offensive boards,” says Hamilton.
Hamilton admits that while the first half was “horrible,” the fact that they were down by just one point had the Titans confident about turning the game around in the second half.
That confidence never transferred onto the court in the third quarter as South Park started pouring it on to outscore Crested Butte 15-3 and build a 13-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
“There was no sense of urgency and the guys started getting frustrated out there,” says Hamilton. “Nobody had a look of fire.”
Hamilton decided it was time to bring his team back into focus with the task at hand.
“I kind of laid it all out there, saying it’s now or never,” explains Hamilton. “I told them, we’re putting all of our chips in.”
The team responded to some extent. Jovany Aguirre opened the scoring with a basket in traffic, Tommy Linehan hit a three-pointer, Nico Marchitelli drained a 10-foot jumper and Ethan Bacani drained a three-pointer as well. South Park responded at times but when Barr hit two three-pointers in a row, the Titans had pulled to within two points with 45 seconds left.
“We hit some shots, the guys started encouraging each other and we made it exciting,” says Hamilton.
Eventually time ran out on the Titans though, and South Park iced the game from the free throw line to edge out a 43-38 win over Crested Butte. Barr led the Titans with 12 points.
“We were never really ever able to get going because of how South Park had their way on the boards,” says Hamilton. “We didn’t really give them our game.”
The Titans closed out the regular season on the road in Sargent on Saturday, February 16 and, with their district fate already determined, Hamilton used the final game more as a learning experience as the Titans were slated to face Sargent in the first round of the playoffs.
“We had a great practice the day before and I presented the game to the guys to use it more as a scrimmage,” says Hamilton. “I just wanted them to continue to play like they did in practice and have fun. I think the guys were kind of into it.”
Hamilton tried out different defensive schemes throughout the game to see how Sargent would react and while Crested Butte ended up losing, they gained key insight for the rematch in the district tournament.
“There’s little things we can do and I think we feel pretty good about it,” says Hamilton. “I think the guys feel like they can beat Sargent.”
If the Titans beat Sargent, they will advance to the second round to face del Norte on Friday, February 22.