Boys basketball season ends in Sweet 16

“It was a special season and a great group of kids”

By Than Acuff 

The Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team reached new heights this season for the program in a long while. While a Titans team reached the 1A finals years ago and in recent history a Titans team made the Sweet 16 in the 2A tournament, the current squad made it to the Sweet 16 in the arguably more competitive 3A tournament before their season came to an end.

The post season was certainly an exciting one for the team with two of their four games coming down to the wire, including their game Friday, March 1 against the Prospect Ridge Academy Miners.

“We knew coming in they were a really good team,” says coach Hannes Gehring.

Game film showed the Miners liked to use an aggressive full court press right away and relied on that heavily to set themselves up for success. The Titans worked diligently in practices leading up to the game on breaking that press and their hard work paid off as the Miners pulled out of their press early in the game as the Titans took a 9-2 lead.

“The boys ran the press break to a T, we were locked in,” says Gehring.

Weston Miller, Porter Donohue, Adin Kurak and Riley Davis all found places to score from and when Eli Hulm drained a three pointer to start the second quarter, the Titans were out ahead 16-7.

The two teams traded buckets throughout the second quarter as the Titans maintained their nine-point lead capped by a basket from Davis inside in the final minute.

“I thought we came out with energy and executed what we wanted to do,” says Gehring. “Going into halftime I was really happy.”

The game remained back-and-forth through the third quarter. Baskets from Davis and Kurak and a block by Donohue helped the Titans to a 32-21 lead and when needed, the Titans looked to Miller inside for additional key points.

Prospect Ridge returned to their press at the end of the third quarter to go on a 7-0 run, but the Titans closed on a high note as Davis scored at the buzzer to maintain their tenuous five-point lead with one quarter left to determine their fate.

The Miners stepped up their defensive pressure even more knocking the Titans off-kilter to open the fourth quarter, but when Donohue picked the pocket of a Prospect Ridge player to feed Miller for a layup followed by a three-pointer from Donohue and a coast-to-coast run by Kurak for two more, Crested Butte was back out in front 47-37 midway through the fourth quarter.

Then the Titans faced their biggest test of the game when Prospect Ridge broke out their man-to-man press with just over two minutes left to play. The move resulted in an 11-2 run for the Miners as they pulled within one point of Crested Butte with 30 seconds left to play.

While most teams would crumble from losing a 10-point lead, Crested Butte did not. Hulm hit one of two free throws and Kurak pulled down a rebound to find Davis up court for a layup and the Titans sealed the 54-50 win. Davis led the team with 15 points, Miller scored 14, Kurak 13 while Donohue and Hulm each dropped in eight.

“We got big buckets down the stretch by everybody,” says Gehring. “To get a win and be in the Sweet 16, it doesn’t matter what the score is, the boys did it.”

The win meant the Titans would face the number two team in the state, Bishop Machebuef, on their home court the very next day. It was at that point that reality set in that a deep bench is necessary to make a run in the 3A state tournament.

Crested Butte came out with the same energy as the night before and went toe-to-toe with Bishop through the first quarter doing what they do. Davis and Miller produced points in the paint, Kurak hit a deep three pointer and Davis pulled down an offensive rebound and scored at the buzzer for a 12-11 Titans’ lead.

Bishop adjusted and looked to their deep bench to make a quick 8-2 run to open the second quarter and take the lead, but five points from Donohue helped hold them in check until Bishop got hot from the three-point line to spark an 11-2 run and take a 34-21 lead into halftime.

“We were right there but I noticed pretty early that there was some fatigue from the night before,” says Gehring. “That became a pretty big factor and I could see our energy level just drop.”

Adding fuel to the fire, Bishop continued their assault from the three-point line in the third quarter and were out ahead 52-25 by the close of the third quarter.

“They just had a shooter in every single spot,” says Gehring. 

Bishop stayed on the gas in the fourth quarter to continue finding success from the perimeter and eventually end Crested Butte’s season as the Titans lost 70-40.

“It became pretty evident there wasn’t enough in the tank to compete against a team that good,” says Gehring.

While a loss to end a season always stings, it was still a remarkable season with the Titans finishing 17-6. Donohue was named all-league honorable mention, Davis second team all-league and Kurak and Miller named to the first team all-league. Miller finished the season leading the league in all statistics and was also named Co-player of the Year for the league.

“It was a special season and a great group of kids,” says Gehring. “It’s about the pursuit of being as good as you can be, and the kids embodied that. It’s sad when it comes to an end.”

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