“Things just started clicking”
by Than Acuff
After three weeks of training, including a day of scrimmages prior to the Thanksgiving break, the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team finally tipped off the season, winning the Caprock Tournament in Grand Junction Friday and Saturday, December 6-7.
Chemistry has been the name of the game for the Titans during the pre-season and that energy continued to grow as they prepared for their first games.
“We had great practices. The team has some great leadership with a lot of positive voices,” says head coach Brandin Hamilton. “They went into the weekend with a lot of excitement.”
The Titans opened the tournament on Friday against Caprock and soon found their excitement somewhat quashed by Caprock’s stingy 2-3 zone defense. Crested Butte had not worked on breaking down a zone defense like that yet and while they struggled to find scoring opportunities, patience paid off for them on offense to build a 22-11 lead by halftime.
“Their defense caused us to take longer to find shots,” says Hamilton. “We scored methodically over time. It was enough but it wasn’t pretty.”
The Titans then blew the game open in the third quarter, as quality shooting from Erik Wasinger forced Caprock to adjust their defense and Crested Butte’s zone press caused Caprock fits.
“We caught them off guard with the press and they had to come out of their zone because Erik was going off,” says Hamilton.
The Titans outscored Caprock 23-9 in the third quarter alone and then cruised through the fourth quarter to a 56-29 win. Wasinger led the team with 30 points, followed by Ethan Bacani with nine, and Grayson White led the team in rebounds.
Crested Butte returned to the floor on Saturday to face Plateau Valley. Plateau Valley brought a significant height advantage to the game with one player standing 6’5” tall and a couple others over the six-foot mark and used that to get the ball inside and dominate the battle in the paint.
The Titans hung tough through the first quarter, down just one heading into the second quarter but foul trouble and cold shooting soon took its toll on the Titans. Still, other aspects of their game kept Crested Butte within striking distance as they were down just 10 points heading into the fourth quarter.
“Luckily, our defense was strong,” says Hamilton. “They were out-rebounding us but our pressure caused turnovers.”
With nothing to lose, Hamilton went to a full-court-press that the team had worked on a total of 30 minutes during practices, and the switch turned the game around completely. The pressure forced Plateau Valley to panic and the Titans gained momentum off of their press to open up the scoring. Furthermore, after spending most of the game on the bench with four fouls, Alan Prieto came into the fourth quarter to score nine points.
“Plateau Valley just started making poor decisions and we started knocking down shots,” says Hamilton. “Things just started clicking.”
Crested Butte ended up outscoring Plateau Valley 24-11 in the fourth quarter to pull off the 41-38 comeback win and finish the weekend the tournament champions. Wasinger led the team with 15 points, Prieto finished with 10, as did White. White led the team in rebounding for the second game in a row.
“It was a good start to the season,” says Hamilton.
The Titans will be at home on Friday, December 13 when they host the Ouray Trojans in mighty Mt. Olympus at 5:30 p.m.