Record now stands at 15-2
by Than Acuff
While the Titan boys basketball team’s go-for-broke defense, variety of scoring threats and resilience through four quarters are some of the magic mix for their success this year during the game, there’s some ancillary changes that are part of the magic as well.
The most obvious of which is the pregame music. For years fans and players were bludgeoned with ear splitting “beats” over the PA system during warm ups. This season that changed as the Titans opted for Bobby Caldwell and his 70’s smooth funk hit single “What You Won’t Do For Love.”
This past weekend, the Titans switched musical gears again, going back to beats with Biggie Smalls on Friday, February 14 and proceeded to cruise past the Custer County Bobcats 80-44 only to U-turn to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” for the pregame jam Saturday and then battled through a frantic four quarters before emerging with a 51-49 win over the Center Vikings.
“It was a good weekend,” says coach Brandin Hamilton. “We were coming off a big win the week before and it was tough to predict how we’d respond after that.”
The Bobcats are a program that can cause trouble if a team doesn’t bring their best game to the floor. While the Titans’ effort appeared somewhat slower than typical games, their spot-on shooting and commitment to playing good basketball was all they needed to roll to the win. It also provided a good show for the fans in attendance for Senior Night as well as the extended White family there to watch their grandson Grayson play.
Crested Butte opened a 24-5 lead in the first quarter as six different Titans scored in the first quarter alone in a variety of ways. While Carlos Franco and Erik Wasinger drained three pointers, Ethan Bacani sliced through the lane to find cutters backdoor for lay ups as well as dumped the ball inside for points in the paint.
“We did a lot of shooting drills the week before and it was fun to see that work pay off,” says Hamilton.
The barrage continued the next three quarters and while the Bobcats did find some success against the stifling Titans defense to score 44 points, Crested Butte remained in control to finish the game. Wasinger led the team with 21 points, Franco proved red hot from three-point land to score 19 and White knocked down 15 points.
“We kind of put everything together that we’d been trying to improve on,” says Hamilton.
Crested Butte returned to the floor the next day to host Center for a rematch. Three weeks ago the Titans went down to Center to pull off the win in Center’s house providing the first inkling that there was something different about the Titans this year. Center was determined to avenge that punishing loss though and could easily have done it, but the Titan’s resiliency, varied scoring and defense shined again.
Crested Butte came to the floor on fire and flying, jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead but as the first quarter continued, Center got their feet underneath them and started to climb back into the game making for a rowdy ride over the next three quarters.
“You could tell that the early run wasn’t going to turn into a blowout,” says Hamilton.
The Titans opened the second quarter scoring first but continued to struggle with Center’s new defense and the Vikings pulled ahead midway through the second quarter. While the Titans appeared a bit rattled, they never fell apart and still had the last say of the half as White stole a pass and tossed it up court to Ethan Bacani for a buzzer beating bucket to pull Crested Butte to within two points.
“We tried to force things and got a little impatient in that quarter but there was no sense of panic,” says Hamilton.
Once again Crested Butte had the first say as a steal and lay up from Wasinger opened the third quarter. Bacani’s work on defense led the entire team into numerous open court buckets and, coupled with three pointers from Franco, the Titans had pulled back out front 34-23 forcing Center to call a timeout.
The Vikings then rattled of a 10-0 run to claw back into the game but the Titans regrouped to rebuild their 11-point lead capped by a midcourt bomb from Franco off the glass in the final second.
“A lot of our success came off of Center mistakes and from day one we’ve been good at capitalizing on turnovers,” says Hamilton.
Then came yet another test for the Titans as Center started to take control of the game and chipped away at Crested Butte’s lead culminating with a steal and a bucket by Center to go up 49-48 with less than a minute left.
And, once again, Crested Butte responded when things got sticky. Wasinger had been handcuffed for most of the game as Center focused on the league-leading scorer but when they gave him a look with 28 seconds left, he made them pay hitting a three pointer to put the Titans back on top 51-49. Center had possession for the final 25 seconds of the game calling three timeouts to set up for their final shot but Crested Butte’s defense sealed the deal leaving nothing for the Vikings, to finish them off 51-49.
“I think we just got tired as I couldn’t go to my bench as much,” says Hamilton. “But I love how the guys responded when we went down by one. There was zero panic and we just made things hard for Center down the stretch.”
The Titans are now 15-2 and are on the road Thursday to play Ouray but close out the regular season at home on Saturday, February 22 against Sargent at 2:30 p.m. A win against Sargent will guarantee Crested Butte the number one seed at the district tournament. If they do not finish the top seed, they will host a first round district game in Crested Butte on Tuesday, February 25.