The Rattlers somehow found a way to slither their way back into the game and then somehow, someway, ended up with a 96-90 victory over the visiting Montreal Alliance in CEBL action at SaskTel Centre.

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Rattlers 96, Alliance 90

The Saskatchewan Rattlers dug themselves into a hole Saturday night in the Snake Pit.

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A 23-point-deficit big hole.

Yet, they somehow found a way to slither their way back into the game and then somehow, someway, ended up with a 96-90 victory over the visiting Montreal Alliance in Canadian Elite Basketball League action at SaskTel Centre.

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“It builds resolve,” said Rattlers head coach Larry Abney, whose team improved its record to 2-0 to start the 2024 CEBL season.

“Obviously, the win is tremendous, but the bigger take out of this is building character with our guys. A lot of people asked us what our identity was coming into the season and we talked about what we want it to be, but it has to be built. It has to be shown. I think our guys did a great job of that tonight.”

Saskatchewan trailed early and often, falling behind 23-17 after the opening quarter and 56-37 at half-time. The Rattlers trailed by as much as 23 points in the third quarter before inching their way back.

“We know that, if we have to dig deep, it’s in there,” added Abney, whose team returns to action at home Thursday (7:30 pm., SaskTel Centre) against the Vancouver Bandits.

“Obviously, that’s not how we want to play every game. If we play the first half how we played the second half, it’s not even a game. But we have to get tested. Without struggle, there’s no progress, as the great Frederick Douglass once said.”

Former Toronto Raptor guard Jalen Harris led the Rattlers with 31 points to go along with three rebounds, five assists and one steal.

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Grant Basile — the Italian Stallion — had 27 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal.

“Obviously coming into the second half, we were down 19 and, in the third quarter, I thought we were playing better but, still, I think we were down 20 with about three minutes left (in the third),” said Basile.

“We went on a big (11-3) run to end that quarter and never looked back. We started sharing the ball, playing the right way and trusting each other. It’s a fun way to get a win”

For a team that likes to pride itself on defence, Saskatchewan gave up 56 points in the first half.

“(Giving up) 56 points in a half is just way too many,” admitted Basile. “We started trusting our defence a little bit more. Guys made some really big plays down the stretch … more and more guys were getting into the lane, picking it. Some guys stepped up and made some big shots.

“When we’re down 19 at half-time, you have that 15-minute break and it’s easy (for fans) to just lose interest in the game but they stuck with us. We started making a run and they stuck with us. They gave us some life at the end.

“Our fans did a great job making it loud — 2-and-0 at the Pit.”

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Maurice Calloo added 11 points, five rebounds and one steal for the Rattlers. Cody John was once again clutch down the stretch with seven points and three rebounds.

Jordan Bowden led all scorers with 24 points, hitting 14 of 18 shooting attempts while sinking six of nine three-point shots. Ahmed Hill added 14 points.

Montreal shot 62 per cent in the first half and also won the rebounding battle. Saskatchewan committed 11 turnovers in the first half but cleaned that up in the second

“Defensively, offensively, they came out and punched us in the face first,” said Abney. “Hats off to them. They came out and (Jordan) Bowden had an amazing game. I don’t know if he missed. It’s hard to win games when you’re up against someone like that, but we had guys step up in the second half as a team effort.

“EJ (Harkless) got on the ball and made it hard for them to get passes to Bowden. Cody (John) face-guarded him and did a great job. After playing only 12 minutes or something, he stepped up big. Obviously, from a scoring standpoint, Grant and Jalen came up big, but everybody on the team — the small contributions all added up and mattered. Anthony (Tsegakele) came in and hit a three. A total team effort.”

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