Images by Leverage Photography
You can chose to mourn. You can choose to talk about Sunday’s tragedy for the basketball community that was the death of legendary Kobe Bryant.
And then other times, things just fall in a way that you can’t ignore.
The basketball world has, more so than ever in the last three days, adopted one of the grandest, toughest mindsets in sports: the “mamba mentality.” Add Snider basketball to that list of adopters. Coach Jeremy Rauch pushed it out on their pregame social media. The top of their board for the pregame and scouting reports has been changed from the catch phrase of “Attitude & Effort” to “Mamba Mentality,” complete with a quote from Bryant.
Mamba Mentality means something different to players and coaches in the worldwide basketball community. But to the community as a whole, it means almost everything; especially this week.
“We’ve definitely embraced it,” Rauch said after Tuesday’s game.
Embracing it is one thing, living it is another. I guess that makes it only right then that Snider’s 67-66 over Churubusco on Tuesday night was punctuated by a buzzer beater from #24.
The Panthers never led by more than two points on Tuesday night. They battled back and then battled back again. Hot shooting, cold shooting, great plays, poor passes; if you name it, Snider did it against the visiting Eagles.
They trailed by 10 points inside the final minute of the game and then they went into a whole different world. Let me walk you through it.
Dillon Duff followed up an Elijah Wimby miss with 45 seconds left to cut the deficit to 8. Jade Moore forced a five second violation against Churubusco’s Hunter Perlich, leading to an inbounds lob to Michael Eley and the lead was 6. Then Moore again struck, forcing Perlich to dribble the inbounds pass on the out of bounds line; on the ensuing play it was Dillon Duff driving the line, going up and around for a basket and the foul. A free throw later, it was a 3 point game. Noah Wolfe hit a free throw for the Eagles to push the lead to four before Eley went from one end to the other and buried a three; the lead was 1. Snider was forced to foul Perlich, sending the Churubusco senior to the line to hit his first free throw and push the lead to two.
It was a heck of a minute. And it all set up what happened after Perlich’s second free throw bounced off the back of the rim. Eley grabbed the rebound and looked to repeat his coast to coast trip. This time though, he was smothered by Churubusco’s defense, who knocked the ball loose right into the waiting hands of Moore. #24 grabbed it, ball faked and without hesitation, buried the triple from the corner across from Snider’s bench.
Of course it was #24.
“Nah,” Moore succinctly responded when asked if he had any hesitation on the game winner. “Coach told us, he said ‘mamba mentality.’ I got the ball, I was open, so I shot it. Everybody was hype, I was hype. I’m glad I hit it.”
The last time I watched a buzzer beater at Kilmer Court, it was 2016 and it was Mike Barnfield from that same corner, maybe more exciting because of the moment and the crowd, but probably not more punctuating because of the way this week began for all of us who love the game. Barnfield’s jersey number that night he beat North Side in Rauch’s first year as Snider’s coach: of course it was #24.
The ten point comeback in the final minute on Tuesday night proved about Snider what Jon Barnes Jr. proved less than two weeks ago against Homestead: Snider doesn’t roll over. That, in itself, has a little mamba mentality coursing through it.
“We’ll take that,” Rauch said about a headline from the game itself that Snider is never out of a basketball game after their second buzzer beating three pointer to win a game in the last 11 days.
“The other headline is they outplayed us, they really did. Jackson Paul is a nice player, we couldn’t get the ball out of his hands. Landen [Jordan] was a horse inside and credit to their role players, they were scrappy, they were first to the floor and they were from an intensity standpoint what we want to be.”
Churubusco constantly pushed and pushed. They led after the first quarter, at the half and after three. The Eagles did almost everything right, played the game that they needed to play for 31 minutes. Paul, as Rauch points out, was on another level and led the Eagles with 11 points at halftime. After Snider made their first run of the second half to snatch the lead, it was Paul who shot back, hitting a three with 1:07 left in the third to extend Churubusco’s lead back to five points. It was a mark Snider wouldn’t reach again until the final minute of the game.
The Eagles pushed the lead up to 10 with six minutes left and the Panthers spent five straight minutes treading water as they tried to climb back and give themselves a chance.
“We came out on top,” Rauch said with a deep breath and probably a few more gray hairs earned than he started the night with. “We hit some shots at the end and you can kind of start seeing it, they really don’t want to handle it and we really didn’t do anything that was that was different in terms of our pressure, we were just playing harder.”
The Panthers too were able to rally behind Eley’s big second half. Held to just two first half points, Eley struggled to find his stroke from the outside or way around the length of Jordan at the basket in the opening 16 minutes. A credit to Eley for staying steady in his comfort zone in the second half, finishing with a game high 25 points while being confident in his offensive awareness and the pressure it put on Churubusco’s defense.
Eley ended up hitting 10-of-24 shots from the field, including a punctuating fast break dunk in the second half.
“That is what good scorers do,” Rauch said. “He kept plugging away.”
Paul scored 23 points with three steals for Churubusco while Jordan had 18 points and 17 rebounds.
Duff added 16 points and seven rebounds for Snider and Moore ended with five points. But three of Jade Moore’s points mattered most; that mamba mentality for a mamba moment. It all just seemed to make sense for #24.
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