we aren't going to lose this game
I’ll always remember how confident I felt because of the way our team had grown in toughness.
What had once been an 11-point lead had turned in to a 1-point deficit with under four minutes to play. This was a moment where our team may have folded a month before, but I knew there was no way we were going to lose this one.
The night before my roommate Jacob Johnson and I had been reminiscing on the tournament run. We talked about some of the toughest moments we had seen from our teammates over the past week.
Jonny Marlin had two tough shots against Northwest Christian that I will never forget. Northwest Christian was one of the biggest, most physical teams we have played all year and it took a series of tough plays to beat them. Jonny ended up sealing the deal with a huge three and a pull-up jumper on the baseline. It was a moment I will never forget because I knew we were on our way to beat a team not just because we were more skilled than them, but because we were tougher than them down the stretch.
Before the Davenport game, we were in the midst of warm-ups when Coach Clark approached me. They were still deciding who was going to guard Dominez Burnett, the two-time NAIA player of the year. Coach asked my opinion on who I thought was the best matchup between Jacob and I. I had been guarding the best perimeter player the whole season, but in my mind, I just knew that Jacob was going to lock him down. I gave Coach the go ahead to let Jacob start on Burnett; I was so confident in his ability, and he looked so locked in on stopping him.
It was almost too good to be true. Jacob played the defensive game of his life. Burnett could not get a good shot at the hoop, and Jacob completely took him out of his game. It was incredible to watch the toughness Jacob played with.
However, the best play of the game came with a few minutes left in the game when Davenport had made a push to win the game. They needed a bucket so they were going to Dominez. We were having trouble playing defense and getting a stop in the second half. At this point in the game, Dominez had four fouls and we knew we needed to get him his fifth. Lane Mahurin fearlessly stepped up and took one of the toughest charges of his life as Dominez drove to his left for a lay-up. I don’t want to say that sealed the deal, because we still needed to finish out the game, but Davenport didn’t have their main scorer to go to now for a bucket. The momentum of the charge carried us to a victory, granting us a spot in the national championship game. Once again, a tough play had helped us move on.
Most people dream about winning one national championship, and here I was with an opportunity for my second ring. We had lost in the conference title game largely because our opponent came up with more tough plays than we did, but as we talked about those plays we looked at each other and said ‘we aren’t going to lose this game.’
The whole experience felt similar to my freshman year. It didn’t matter who we were playing, I felt with all my heart that there was no way we could lose. In talks the next day with parents, coaches, or teammates, I felt like all I was saying was “we aren’t going to lose this game.” Looking back, I honestly was probably getting annoying to whoever I came in contact when my response to any questions was, “we aren’t going to lose this game.” All I can remember the whole day was thinking (you guessed it) “we aren’t going to lose this game.”
When Saint Francis took the lead, my mind flashed back to the memories of those tough plays. The whole season, coach had been telling us what we needed to do to become a championship team, and that was to become tougher. We had to make tough plays. I knew we needed someone to make a tough play in the final moments if we were going to cut down the nets, and Josh Mawhorr gave it to us when he ripped down a huge rebound to seal the deal for the championship game after we had regained the lead.
As Josh ripped down the rebound, I knew that “we weren’t going to lose this game.” I had never for a moment doubted these guys. The whole tournament was full of so many emotions I shared with my teammates, too many to even describe. We were a group of tight-knit brothers who were fighting for a common cause. We had shared memories of early morning practices and junkyard workouts. The one constant emotion was the confidence I had in this team. I will never forget it!