“The potential of this group is pretty awesome”
[ by Than Acuff ]
For the first part of the season, the all too brief season, the Crested Butte Titans boys’ basketball team had yet to make it through a game with their entire line-up intact. Last week though, the entire team finally came together as they hit the road to face the Sargent Farmers on Tuesday, February 16 and came away with a 60-12 win.
Granted, the Farmers are not as strong as they usually are this season, but the game served as a reminder of what the Titans are capable of and helped prepare them for their toughest challenge of the season against Sanford three days later.
The Titans jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter against Sargent and then started to gain additional traction as the game continued cruising to the win.
“It was a good game because we hadn’t been able to play together as a team all season,” says head coach Brandin Hamilton. “You saw that in the first quarter as they shook the cobwebs off but they smoothed things out as the game progressed.”
Erik Wasinger led the team with 22 points followed by Grayson White with 13 and Alan Prieto combined for nine points and seven rebounds.
But, before they could get all warm and fuzzy after taking two steps forward, the Titans took another step back as they lost starting center John Penney to a shoulder injury in the game and would be without him when they would face the notoriously tall Sanford on Friday, February 19.
Nevertheless, due to their season-long struggles with illness and injury, the players had become a little more used to weekly shifts in their roles and they looked forward to the challenge against Sanford.
“I feel like the guys were ready for it and confident and thought we had a pretty good game plan,” says Hamilton. “We knew we had to focus on their big guys and make sure they didn’t hurt us inside.”
The initial game plan was solid but the application of it was not as Sanford found seams in the Titans’ defense to take a 17-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“We weren’t really playing our zone as crisp as we normally would,” says Hamilton.
Hamilton called a timeout in the first quarter to remind the players of their roles and continued the conversation between quarters and then things started to click for Crested Butte turning the second quarter into a slugfest between the two teams.
Tighter team defense and baskets from Prieto, Wasinger and White had the Titans tied with Sanford midway through the second quarter. Sanford still found ways to score but Crested Butte rattled off six straight points to end the quarter for a 30-26 lead at halftime.
“We were in the middle of a good basketball game and the boys were feeling pretty good about it,” says Hamilton.
The Titans then got a break just prior to the start of the third quarter as Sanford received a technical foul giving Crested Butte two free throws and a possession to start the second half.
Wasinger hit one of two free throws and the Titans ran a play flawlessly to set up Prieto backdoor for two more and the Titans were rolling. Sanford had some gas left to counter but Crested Butte was firing on all pistons at both ends of the court. Owen Forsythe slipped a pass backdoor to White for a basket and a foul. White hit the free throw to finish the three-point play, Harper Smith then scored on the Titans’ next trip up the court, Forsythe followed with a three-pointer and when White, Prieto and Wasinger all followed that with baskets, Crested Butte was sitting on a 14-point lead.
Sanford recovered though prior to the end of the third quarter and cut the Crested Butte lead down to seven points heading into the fourth quarter.
“We had two quarters where we kept them off balance and shined offensively,” says Hamilton.
That late quarter Sanford surge though served as a harbinger for the fourth quarter as Sanford continued to chip away at the Titans.
Wasinger and Forsythe both scored to keep offensive momentum going at the start but Sanford’s three-point shooter got hot and Crested Butte’s shots stopped falling.
“We were still getting looks but we missed shots and they were hot,” says Hamilton.
With three minutes left Sanford had pulled to within one and White picked up his fifth foul leaving the Titans to adjust once again. Smith and Prieto connected one last time to put Crested Butte up 55-53 but Sanford rattled off the last nine points of the game to pull off the 62-55 win. Wasinger led the Titans with 20 points, Prieto had 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds and White dropped in 10 points.
“Even though we lost, the players now know they can play with anybody and we’ll use it as motivation moving forward,” says Hamilton. “The potential of this group is pretty awesome.”
That potential will get tested a couple more times now as they have three tough games over the week against Ouray, Del Norte and Monte Vista. Go to the Crested Butte Titans Athletics Facebook page to catch live streams of the games.
“We want to win out but there’s a lot of good teams left to play,” says Hamilton.