Remi Sisselman embraced her inner “Mamba mentality.”
With the basketball world honoring the memory of former NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who were two of the nine killed in a helicopter crash Sunday, the Long Island basketball community has done the same.
For skilled Half Hollow Hills East junior guard Sisselman, the best way to show what she admired about the great scorer was inside a gymnasium.
Despite struggling in the first quarter, she didn’t shy away in the game’s biggest moments. Sisselman scored 30 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, as Half Hollow Hills East defeated host Newfield, 44-40, in Suffolk League III action on Monday.
When her shot wasn’t falling, she thought back to Bryant.
“Someone as great as him, he knows he’s going to make the next shot,” Sisselman said. “And I told myself that the next one was going to go in.”
Sisselman scored 24 points in the second half as the Thunderbirds erased a six-point halftime deficit. Hills East (7-2) closed with a 12-3 run before Raiyah Reid (19 points) hit a three-pointer with one second left for Newfield (4-4).
“[Sisselman] was just off early,” coach Adam Cirnigliaro said. “But I was proud of her because in the second half, she took the game over and decided she wasn’t going to lose.”
After she missed a three-pointer midway through the second quarter, Cirnigliaro yelled, “Keep shooting!” to ensure that she stayed aggressive.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Sisselman said. “But my coach told me no matter what, you have to keep shooting, one of them is going to fall eventually, so I didn’t stop shooting. I knew in my head I just had to shoot confidently.”
When Sisselman wasn’t scoring, she was creating for others. The often cool-mannered guard gave an energetic high-five to Mumtaaz Najimi after a three-pointer, assisted by Sisselman, that gave the Thunderbirds a 40-34 lead with 1:48 remaining.
“We practice those shots every day and it just came to me,” Najimi said. “As soon as I shot it, I knew it was going to go in.”
Cirnigliaro pointed to Sisselman’s work ethic as a reason for her success. And when Sisselman thinks of work ethic, one name comes to mind.
“The Mamba mentality, determination and passion for the game,” she said. “It just goes without saying when you say ‘Kobe Bryant,’ that’s what comes to mind. His work ethic really, really inspired me.”