After spending much of his first season with the Marquette Academy boys basketball team acting as more of a facilitator than a scorer, now-junior Jack Snook has made the most of his new role as lead scorer to pour in an average of around 15 points per contest for the rapidly improving Crusaders.
But in the club’s most crucial moment to date this season, he was more than happy to take one quick step back to yesteryear.
As the ninth annual Marseilles Holiday Tournament progressed and the games got tighter, Snook got progressively better and more clutch right up to the end when he he rifled a no-look pass through a trio of Indian Creek defenders to a cutting Chase Thumm for the winning score with just 4.8 seconds to play.
The result was a 65-63, triple-overtime victory over the Timberwolves, the Crusaders' first championship in their own Christmas tourney and an MVP award for Snook.
Now add the first Prime Times Player honor of 2018.
“Getting that assist was cool, because everyone was expecting me to shoot it,” Snook said with a smile. “If I need to score for us to win, that’s what I’ll do, but there have been games I scored six points and we won. Against Indian Creek, I felt I had to score, and that’s what I tried to do, but distributing the ball is fine with me. The play wasn’t made for that, but Chase rolled, it opened up and I just chucked it to him.
“We’ve been playing pretty well. Starting with the JCA game, that was a big win for us, and winning the Marseilles Tournament for the first time, that was pretty cool, but we can’t look past anybody. We have to keep getting better.
The Crusaders, after a so-so start to the season that included losing three of four for just eighth place at Hall’s Colmone Classic, regained their stride at Marseilles and have since topped Lowpoint-Washburn and Mendota to move to 12-3. They feel they had turned a corner when they came back from an 11-0 deficit to defeat Joliet Catholic, 56-48, at Bader Gym on Dec. 23.
It really showed in Marseilles, where in their tourney opener Snook was his usual self with five of his 17 points early to get his team the lead on Woodland. That started it toward what would become a 71-50 victory.
Next was rival St. Bede, with whom Marquette had split its two outings already this season. As expected, it was a hotly-contested game until a Snook jumper started a 14-0 Crusaders rally that put it in control of a 74-63 victory. He ended with 17 points and seven rebounds..
In the semifinals, MA found Seneca every bit the feisty foe it expected, that is until a crucial 3-pointer by Snook gave Marquette a nine-point lead with under five minutes to play. Marquette went on to a 63-57 win over the Irish. He finished with 13 points, eight assists, four steals and three rebounds on the night.
But then he got better.
Ever on the lookout to get better, Snook feels that his 3-point shooting, his defense and, yes, his decision-making are better than a year ago, but are areas in which he feels he needs to improve.
“He’s growing up,” said MA coach Todd Hopkins. “Jack works hard and takes criticism better than he did last year, and I’ve learned to loosen the reins a little bit and not ride him so much. We’ve kinda met in the middle, and now things are working out for us. …