BOULDER — Forging one's identity takes time.
Just ask the 2016-17 Shining Mountain boys squad.
A year removed from a remarkable run to the Class 1A state championship game, the Lions have spent the first two months of the season trying to figure out just who they are and what they want to accomplish come February and March.
On Thursday night, Shining Mountain — in a game they needed to have — the Lions built a double-digit lead on Jim Elliot and then hung on in the closing seconds for a 40-38 win over the Warriors.
"We are right there on the edge and we have had three or four games where it feels like everything is clicking into place," said Lions coach Tim Crouthers, who was an assistant last year for the state runners-up that lost five seniors.
"It's an exciting feeling, because you can see flashes. If we just learn to adjust our attitudes when things go south a little bit, we'll be fine."
Said senior Gopal Zubaedi, who is part of a starting five that has been playing together since they were in the third grade: "In terms of effort we are there and we are the team we want to be. And we have a very good sense of that. We just don't want to let each other down."
Crouther's bunch had a serious attitude check in the finals minutes on Thursday night and they passed with flying colors.
The Lions were up by 12 points, 36-24 early in the fourth after a Gopal Zubaedi steal and lay-up; and it appeared as though they had delivered the dagger to the Warriors hopes.
But Jim Elliot slowly chipped away and with 1:00 to play had cut the lead to 38-34. The Warriors made it a one possession game on Will Finnegan's inbound steal and layup with 40 seconds to play.
That is where the attitude check came into play. The Lions knew that Jim Elliot needed to foul and they calmly moved the ball around and got it in the hands of their best free-throw shooter, Nathan Fairmont, and he put the game away.
His two free throws with 18 second left made again made it a two possession game and sealed the win.
"I was sweating a little too much, it made me nervous," said Crouthers, about his teams final few moments. "They are a great team and they took every opportunity that we gave them and they gave us their best shot."
Only four players scored for the Lions, led by sophomore Reid Hill's 13 points. Fairmont had 11, Alec Evans had nine and Zubaedi finished with seven.
SHINING MOUNTAIN 40, JIM ELLIOT 38
At Shining Mountain
JIM ELLIOT (8-5, 3-4)
Liam O'Byrne 2 0-0 4, Brian Roberts 0 0-0 0, Peyton Motschenbacher 4 0-0 9, Daniel Smith 3 0-0 6, Will Finnegan 3 2-3 9, Jehoon Choi 0 0-0 0, Keith Zupancic 0 1-3 1, Connor Bogner 3 3-4 9. Totals 15 6-10 38.
SHINING MOUNTAIN (8-5, 3-2)
Dylan Farrell 0 0-0 0, Reid Hill 5 0-0 13, Nathan Fairmont 4 3-5 11, Marcus Zeender 0 0-0 0, Alec Evans 4 1-1 9, Gopal Zubaedi 3 0-1 7, Perrin Thompson 0 0-0 0, Max Robsn 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 4-7 40.
Score by quarters:Jim Elliot 6 7 11 14 — 38 Shining Mountain 13 11 8 8 — 40
3-point field goals — Jim Elliot (2): Motschenbacher, Finnegan; Shining Mountain (4): Hill 4, Zubaedi. Total fouls — Jim Elliot 11; Shining Mountain 8. . Technical fouls — Jim Elliot bench; Shining Mountain bench.