Another trip to state?
Both Titans high school basketball teams are officially on the state radar now, after their incredible seasons last year.
The girls finished fourth in the state tournament and the boys finished fifth, making for the strongest season ever for Crested Butte high school basketball and attracting the attention of media outlets statewide.
“I already got a call from the Rocky Mountain News,” says girls’ head coach MaryMike Haley. “They never call me.”
And both teams look to return to the state spotlight this year, with key returning players on both squads and a host of up and coming stars.
The biggest question mark for both teams is the new league. Due to league restructuring during the off-season, Crested Butte is now competing in the Southern Peaks League, a denizen of San Luis Valley schools.
“I know they’re scrappy and coached pretty well,” says Haley of the Southern Peaks girls’ teams. “The San Luis Valley has always been pretty competitive.”
Boys coach Robin Loyed took his team to some summer tournaments to get a look at the new league and has at least some idea of what he will see this season from his Southern Peaks opponents.
“My gut feeling is we should contend with Creede for the league title,” says Loyed.
The Lady Titans may have lost Emma Coburn to graduation and two returning seniors to other interests but Haley is looking at healthy numbers for a relatively small school such as Crested Butte.
“I’ve got 16 girls out, which is amazing,” says Haley. “They’re in there and they’ve got a good attitude. There are some freshmen with some serious potential.”
In addition, she’s got four returning starters. Leading the charge is senior and last year’s top scorer Emma Vosburg. Vosburg is the leader on the court and turned several games in Crested Butte’s favor last year draining shots from beyond the three-point arc.
Joining Vosburg are seniors Jessie Frame and Allie McFarland and junior Sydney Loyed.
Not to mention the players from last year’s team who spent the season gaining experience and watching the team develop confidence and reach the state tournament.
“There’s a lot of experience coming back,” says Haley. “I have some girls who have been there and know what to expect.”
Loyed has less to work with this year on the boys’ squad than last year. Not necessarily less talent, just lower numbers.
“We’ve got a good core,” says Loyed. “We’re talented but just not as deep.”
First and foremost there’s senior and second team all-state player John Wright. Wright led the team in scoring last year and exploded at the state tournament averaging 24 points per game against the best teams in the state. Wright was named to the state tournament all-star team and turned the heads of college recruiters in the stands.
To say Wright has a target on his jersey this year would be an understatement, and Loyed knows it.
“Traveling around this fall I had ADs [athletic directors] from schools telling me their teams are designing game plans to stop John,” explains Loyed.
Fortunately, Wright has seniors Robbie Holleran and Chris Sharpe with him on the court. Holleran started playing last year and developed into a monster on defense. He’s found his place on offense as well and should help take some heat off of Wright.
Sharpe got limited playing time last season but has since turned into legitimate threat from outside and should light it up from three-point range.
“Chris will have games where he will hit five or six three-point shots in a row,” says Loyed. “You cannot leave him open for a second.”
Loyed is looking to a handful of sophomores such as Jake Grogg, Sky Egelhoff, Henry Linehan and Sam Evans to step into starting roles and contribute as well as freshman Anton Peck.
“We’ve got a good crop of youngsters,” says Loyed. “I’ve seen the younger players merge in with the seniors nicely. Everybody knows the offense and the plays, so we’re able to work on the finer things.”
Loyed admits this team continues to struggle with the finer things such as free throw shooting as well as shooting from the perimeter as a team.
Both the Lady Titans and the boys open their seasons with a scrimmage at home against Cotopaxi on Friday, November 21. There are four games scheduled with the girls JV at 3 p.m., boys JV at 4:15 p.m., girl’s varsity at 5:30 p.m. and the boys varsity at 7 p.m.
“It will be a full night of action and a great early season test for us,” says Loyed.
The teams then head to the Front Range for separate tournaments December 5-6 before opening league play on the road on Friday, December 12.
The first league home game for the Titans will be on Saturday, December 13 against Creede.