Missing players spell team’s demise
by Than Acuff
It was meant to be a triumphant home opener on Friday, December 13 when the Crested Butte boys basketball team was set to host the Ouray Trojans. The two teams have a long history and match up well, year in and year out.
Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the Crested Butte Titans were down several players, including numerous varsity starters, and Ouray proved too much for Crested Butte as the Titans fell 68-38.
“I found out right before practice on Thursday,” says coach Brandin Hamilton. “I just had to go down the rosters to find enough players to have a JV and varsity game. I didn’t want to forfeit.”
Hamilton had four varsity players to work with and then pulled another four to have a squad of eight players total. Four of the eight had never played in a varsity game, including one player who played his first basketball game ever in the JV game against Ouray and another who hadn’t played basketball since sixth grade. Despite the challenge ahead, Hamilton still looked to instill some confidence in the team.
“I told them we’re going to play to win,” says Hamilton. “We went over the parts of the game we needed to do well in order to have a chance to win the game.”
The Titans suffered at first as Ouray dictated the pace and play of the game through the first quarter. Ethan Bacani and Murphy Smith each knocked down shots but Ouray warmed up to the situation and eventually gained their rhythm to build a 20-4 lead.
“I think the first quarter was an adjustment to the speed of a varsity game compounded with the fact that Ouray is really good,” says Hamilton. “We had a chance early to make it competitive but it didn’t go our way and after that Ouray caught fire.”
Ouray looked to take it to a new level at the start of the second quarter as they scored the first seven points, including a three-pointer, but when Davis McNeill knocked down a three, the momentum shifted a bit. Smith followed hitting a free throw, Bacani drove the lane to score and then picked off the inbounds pass to feed Carlos Franco for another bucket and the Titans were looking good. Bacani dropped in four more points and Porter Washburn drove the lane from the wing for two more points bringing some life to the game.
Ouray cooled off the Titans with a couple more three-pointers to keep Crested Butte at arm’s length, taking a 42-20 lead into halftime but spirits were high on the Titans team.
“We got our feet under us, we just needed some time to figure each other out and the varsity players found their rhythm and played their game,” says Hamilton. “We still couldn’t slow them down but we went into halftime confident and felt we could dig into their lead a little more in the third.”
Ouray settled back into their game in the third quarter, mixing in bombs from three-point land with offensive rebounding to add on to their lead for a 60-24 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
“We just couldn’t compete with them on the boards. We didn’t have the size or preparation and Ouray is very good at that,” says Hamilton.
The Titans didn’t give up though and continued to battle until the final horn. Miles Mitchell hit a three-pointer, McNeill tacked on a second one from downtown and Bacani put together a three-point play to finish the game with a team-leading 15 points before they ultimately fell 68-38.
“In the end I think they all grew a lot by having an opportunity to play in that game,” says Hamilton. “It’ll be a great game next time we meet them.”
Crested Butte remains at home this weekend as they host Lake County on Friday at 7 p.m. and then Telluride on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Titans will be missing two players for Lake County, but will be back to full strength against Telluride.
“I think the guys are pretty focused and ready and they tell me that they feel the past week has made them stronger,” says Hamilton. “Both games are going to be tough and neither of them will be easily decided.”