Seventh-seeded Ouray led 29-20 in the second quarter, but allowed eight-seeded Crested Butte to rally for a 61-50 Saturday morning victory, giving the Titans (20-6) the fifth-place trophy.
Ouray (19-7), which was never ranked in the state poll during the regular season, went 1-2 at the eight-team state tournament to finish sixth in its first state appearance since the mid-1990s.
“I think we were a little overwhelmed with the surroundings,” coach Carl Addison said.
“But all in all, I think we did OK for a first time showing in 13 years.”
Ouray led Crested Butte 31-26 at halftime, a lead the Titans cut to 40-38 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Crested Butte – which finished runner-up (6-2) to Ouray (8-0) in the Mountain League – went on an 18-2 run behind the play of junior forward John Wright, who scored 12 points in that run, including a deep three-pointer with five minutes, 34 seconds left that put Crested Butte ahead 45-42, a lead the Titans would never relinquish. Wright finished with a game-high 24 points.
Sophomore center Chris Blansett led Ouray, scoring 10 of his team-high 14 points in the first half. Seniors Jude Martinez and Teddy Sirotek added eight points each, and seniors Jimmy Ficco (six) and Robert Warren (five) added a collective 11.
“[Crested Butte] came to play and we didn’t,” said Addison, whose team defeated Crested Butte 45-42 in the district final on March 1. “This was something to learn from for the future. We didn’t capitalize and should’ve done some things differently. I take fault for that with a rookie coach at state just like a rookie team being there.”
Ouray advanced to the consolation championship by defeating McClave 39-36 in a consolation semifinal on Friday despite being outscored 18-9 in the fourth quarter by the sixth-seeded Cardinals (16-9).
Warren gave Ouray a 6-4 lead with a three-pointer just over four minutes into the game, which put the Trojans in the lead for good. The lead ballooned to 30-18 early in the third quarter – aided by the fact that McClave top starters Ethan Williams and Blayze Melgoza were on the bench with four fouls for the entire quarter. They returned to the game at the start of the fourth quarter and combined for 12 points to slowly rally the Cardinals to within two points, 38-36, with nine seconds to go, but Ouray senior Cody Geist hit one of two free throws in the waning seconds to seal the three-point win.
Sirotek led Ouray with 10 points, followed by Martinez (eight), Blansett (seven), Geist and Warren (six each), and junior forward Clay Schafer (two).
“That was a team we really should’ve hammered with our talent level,” Addison said. “We did manage to pull that victory out and everything was set for Crested Butte.”
Ouray opened the tournament on Thursday afternoon by suffering its worst loss of the season – a 73-55 setback to No. 2 state-ranked and eventual state runner-up Iliff Caliche (23-2), which ended the Trojans’ 12-game winning streak. In its five losses before the state tournament, the worst Ouray had been beaten was nine points, 50-41, to eventual 2A West Region runner-up Telluride back on Dec. 7.
The Trojans led Caliche only twice early in the game, but the speedy and aggressively quick-handed Buffaloes utilized a full-court man-to-man defense to stymie Ouray. The Trojans made a game of it, however, after finding themselves down 30-18 with three minutes left in the first half, Ouray came out after halftime and cut the lead to 35-32 three minutes into the third quarter, but was unable to get any closer as the Buffaloes slowly pulled away, outscoring the Trojans 38-23 the rest of the way.
Warren and Blansett led Ouray with 12 points each. Martinez added 11, and Ficco (seven) and Scott Fedel (four) combined for 11 more points.
“We knew they were going to be quick,” said Addison of Caliche, which lost to top-seeded and No. 1 state-ranked Seibert Hi-Plains 63-60 in the championship game Saturday evening. “They were a good team and I still think if we’d come to play with all guns firing, I think we could’ve beat that team. We turned the ball over way too much with the pressure they were putting on us.”
Ouray advanced to state by defeating District 6 runner-up LaVeta, 72-62, in Gunnison on March 8.
Ouray’s roster consisted of seniors Ethan Fries, Ficco, Geist, Martinez, Sirotek, and Warren; juniors Fedel and Schafer; and sophomores Blansett, Jake Link, Nakoa Martinez, and Kenneth Wilson.
“These seniors and I have been together for seven years from when I coached them in middle school,” Addison said. “It will be tough losing those six. It’s bittersweet, though. I’m happy they got there to state and now they’re moving on. I’m truly going to miss them. The nucleus we have coming back is a good group of players. They understand what it takes.”