The game-winning, alley-oop-like basket seemed like it was in slow motion for Utah State University's Jonathan Larue.
"It felt like my mule was kind of floating in the air there," Larue said with a smile following his team's come-from-behind, 5-4 victory over Sky View. "I just caught the ball and was able to put it right in."
Students from Utah State and Logan, Mountain Crest and Sky View high schools competed in donkey basketball at Crimson Gym at Logan High School on Wednesday night. The event was meant to raise funds for the Cache Community Food Pantry and was sponsored by the USU College of Agriculture.
After Utah State beat the Grizzlies 4-3 and Sky View knocked off the Mustangs 5-4, the Aggies and Bobcats faced off in the championship game. Tied 1-1 at halftime, Sky View held a 4-3 advantage with 1:32 left.
But Larue, while wearing a University of Wyoming T-shirt, seemed to be inspired by a Chris Ledoux song being played over the gym's sound system and quickly knotted up the score with a layup from the right side of the basket.
Utah State ended up with the ball again with 46 seconds left, and USU's designated passer in the court's center circle promptly fired a strike off to Larue. The native of Warren, Utah, caught the ball and smoothly banked it in for what proved to be the winning basket.
"It was a good team effort," declared Larue, who scored all four of USU's baskets in the second half despite having never played basketball from the back of a beast of burden. "We just got it going good."
The Aggies also won their first game in thrilling fashion, scoring the go-ahead basket with less than a minute left. Seth Christensen helped spur USU's rally, despite going down hard twice in a span of about 10 seconds.
"The ref told me to hold onto his bridle before I got on him, but I didn't wait for the ref to hold his bridle," said Christensen, a freshman from Preston. "I just kind of jumped on him and went for it. … But I'm good. No broken bones. But my little man ego is a little smaller."
Logan High student Matt Graves also got tossed a few times in the first game — once before the contest even started. It was his second spill, though, that led to him limping around afterward and rubbing his right knee in obvious pain.
"That's when I just face-planted," Graves said while slapping his right hand hard on his thigh. "He's a mean little guy; that's all there is to it."
Graves said he was enticed to compete in the game by his parents, who said he could go to Senior Ball if he played. Most of the other competitors were apparently roped into the event by friends and roommates.
Tate Jenkins said peer pressure led to him showing up, but the junior from Sky View was a key component in the Cats' comeback from a 3-1 halftime deficit. He scored Sky View's final two buckets in the last two minutes to knock out the rival Mustangs, who were cheered on by the largest fan contingent of any of the teams.
"We had heart, played as a team, passed the ball around and we beat 'em," Jenkins declared. "We had tons of fun."
Jenkins also provided one of the night's best moments when, after his donkey started bucking, he immediately switched to rodeo mode and rode it out like a veteran bareback rider, looking strangely similar to the Wyoming Cowboy logo on Larue's shirt.