Titan boys basketball takes second at the Districts Tournament

On to Regionals this week

By Than Acuff 

After edging out a last-second win over Montezuma-Cortez in the semifinals of the District tournament, the Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team ran into a buzzsaw in the finals falling to Centauri. They now head to the Regional Tournament as the 15th seed where they will face Prospect Ridge Academy on Friday, March 1.

The Titans opened Districts looking to make a statement when they took the floor against the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers on Friday, February 23. Porter Donohue led the charge on defense with three steals as Crested Butte built a 21-13 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Montezuma-Cortez closed the gap at the start of the second quarter, but the Titans responded with an 8-0 run to take a 16-point lead. The Panthers started chipping away again but Eli Hulm and Donohue each hit big three-pointers while Weston Miller was busy battling in the paint and the Titans built a 40-26 lead by halftime.

“We came out with incredible energy, everybody was making plays,” says coach Hannes Gehring.

When Hulm drove from the wing early in the third quarter for a layup, the Titans looked to be in control with a 20-point lead until the Panthers started pulling back into the game refusing to give in. In addition, Miller picked up his third foul and the Panthers continued to push on the Titans cutting their lead down to seven points by the end of the third quarter.

“We had a plan to limit certain players, but we were letting their role players get loose for open looks,” says Gehring. “And it felt like they were getting offensive rebounds and loose balls. All the 50/50 balls seemed to be going their way.”

The fourth quarter was what anyone could hope for in a playoff game. Despite numerous leads by the Titans and numerous comebacks by the Panthers, that was all in the past and what transpired was a knockdown, drag out battle to the final buzzer.

Adin Kurak opened the quarter driving to the hoop for two and Riley Davis scored for an 11-point lead, but Montezuma-Cortez hit a trio of three pointers to pull within six points midway through the fourth quarter.

A quick 7-0 run by the Panthers then gave them their first lead of the game with two minutes left. A steal and a layup had Montezuma-Cortez up 68-64 with a minute left and looking to finish off the comeback.

“It’s tough when everything’s going the other way,” says Gehring. “I thought our composure was solid and I looked at them and said, this isn’t over.”

The Titans regrouped as Kurak drove to the hoop to score and Donohue stripped a Panther player of the ball to run the length of the floor for a layup tying the game 68-68 with 37 seconds left. Montezuma-Cortez came back down the floor looking for that final winning shot, but a travel by the Panther guard turned the ball over to the Titans and they called a timeout with 15 seconds left to draw up the final play.

“I called a play that the kids know really well,” says Gehring. 

Two passes later and a couple of cuts and Kurak saw a seam and drove to the hoop to lay the ball in at the buzzer for the 70-68 Titans’ win.

“We had guys step up and make really good plays,” says Gehring. “Credit to the boys for sticking with it. They stuck together and dug deep.”

The win sent the Titans to the District finals where they faced the Centauri Falcons on Saturday, February 24. While Montezuma-Cortez was a solid 3A opponent, Centauri is ranked fifth in the state in 3A.

While an intimidating opponent on paper, the truth come out on the court and for the first quarter, the Titans were in the mix with Centauri as everything seemed according to plan. Miller was scoring inside, Riley Davis was finding shots from the three-point line when Centauri collapsed on Miller and Donohue had another steal for a layup.

Crested Butte was down four points heading into the second quarter and continued to trade blows with the Falcons. Problem was, Centauri found their shot from three-point land and managed to build on their lead to take a 24-16 lead into halftime.

“We battled early and felt like we were right in the game,” says Gehring. “We were right there but I knew we’d have to play lights out in the second half.”

The depth of Centauri’s bench and their hot hand from the perimeter would eventually lead to the Titans’ demise. Centauri hit four of their 10 three-pointers that game in the third quarter alone as they outscored the Titans 30-8 to build an insurmountable lead and continued to pour it on to beat the Titans 70-38. Kurak led the team with 12 points.

“I was hoping to keep it closer,” says Gehring. “I was disappointed it was such a lopsided loss. The top teams in 3A are really competitive.”

Crested Butte heads into the Regional tournament as the 15th seed and will face 18th seeded Prospect Ridge Academy on Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. While the Titans are seeded higher, Gehring expects the game to be as tough as the previous two they just played.

“Prospect Ridge is just another step up from what we’ve been doing,” says Gehring. “They’re solid for an 18th ranked team but so are we. It is a team we can compete with.”

With a Titans’ win in that game, they would advance to most likely play the number two team in the state, Bishop Machebeuf, on Saturday, March 2. All games will be streamed live on nfhsnetwork.com.

 

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