“The team really came together when we needed it”
[ by Than Acuff ]
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team. It seems like just as they start to make some forward progress, something stands in their way and they have yet to have a game with their full varsity squad on the floor for an entire game.
“I think we’ve had one game with a full team and we got in early foul trouble in that one,” says coach Brandin Hamilton.
Nevertheless, they persevere winning three of their first four games including a win over Trinidad on Saturday, February 13.
Last week, injured players were back in action at practices and they were back to full strength and looking forward to their away game with Telluride on Tuesday, February 9. But, once again, something stood in their way, specifically COVID.
“We had great practices and had a great trip over there, stopped and had a snowball fight on the way,” says coach Brandin Hamilton.
But, due to COVID protocols, the Titans never made it onto the floor and had to get back on the bus and return to Crested Butte.
The team regrouped and had to reset once again as they would be missing a handful of starters and two key players off the bench for the game against Trinidad four days later. So, once again, Hamilton called on players to step into new roles for the game.
“We had about half of our varsity roster and then filled it in with some JV players,” explains Hamilton. “But from top to bottom we had been having some really competitive practices and I felt good about the guys I was bringing up.”
After three days of workouts with the new line-up, Hamilton just made sure he reminded his team of a few things as they headed to face Trinidad.
“I told them go in with the right mindset, go in with confidence,” says Hamilton. “And, by the way, we’re pretty good with our make-up.”
When it doubt, start with defense and work from there and that’s just what the Titans did against Trinidad to build a 6-0 lead by the end of the first quarter with Ben Barney hitting a three-pointer and John Penney battling for buckets.
“Right away it seemed Trinidad was going to struggle with our defense,” says Hamilton. “Offensively we were getting good looks but we were missing them and we missed four free throws.”
The Titans started to fall into a more comfortable role on offense while their defense continued to stifle Trinidad. Alex Bacani dropped in a couple baskets and Owen Forsythe was crashing the boards with impunity as Crested Butte built a 16-0 lead. Trinidad started to find some success on offense to score six points toward the end of the first half but the Titans responded to that to take a 21-6 lead into halftime.
“We saw Trinidad get a little more aggressive at the end of the half and getting points so I just told them how important it was to keep playing tough defense, rebound and take good shots,” says Hamilton.
While the game remained low scoring, the Titans continued to do the majority of it maintaining control of the game in the third quarter to go up 30-10 and then keep pushing to finish off Trinidad 44-22. Penney led the Titans with 12 points followed by Barney who had 11, including three from behind the arc.
“The team really came together when we needed it,” says Hamilton. “The seniors were fantastic. There was an extra level of focus out of all three of them all week and it made everyone feel more comfortable knowing that the seniors believed in them.”
The Titans should be back to full strength now and just in time as they host Sanford on Friday, February 19.
“We hope to get on track and see if we can have some good practices this week and build some momentum,” says Hamilton.
Crested Butte stung Sanford last season so the two teams will be coming into the game on point for another showdown, “They’re tough and they got three guys around 6’4”,” says Hamilton. “I think we’re right there. It’s two good teams that are going to go out there and play a good basketball game.”
Check out the Crested Butte Titans Athletics Facebook page to get info on how to watch the game.