They thought I wasn’t good enough. It was the championship game and I had led my team to the most important game of the season. They still thought I wasn’t good enough. I saw two tall kids pointing at me and whispering something. I don’t know how, but I knew they were thinking that I wasn’t very good. That’s what drove me to win the game and beat the kids doubting me. I knew this team was better than us, but deep down, I knew we had more than a slim chance.
Just like before every big game, my stomach was filled with butterflies. Questions fluttered through my brain as the ref threw the ball into the air. Would my friend, David, get into foul trouble early? Why did they think I was no good? As I was thinking, the ref blew the whistle, and my team controlled the tip. I guided the ball down the floor and passed right away, straight at David’s chest under the basket. He caught it cleanly and put in the easy layup. “Let’s go!” I yelled.
Sadly, the other team came out on fire. There was nothing we could do to stop them in the first quarter. We did everything in our power to slow the onslaught, but all we ended up doing was committing fouls. Thankfully, our offense wasn't too bad either. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 26-32. "COME ON!" My coach barked at us. "We are going to get completely crushed if we keep playing this way!" Everyone hung their heads low, enraged about the way they played. I don't know how she did it, but our coach inspired us by telling us we were playing awful.
We came out at the beginning of the second quarter the same way they came out in the first quarter. The only difference was that we were more on fire defensively. We only allowed 21 points in the second quarter. Our offense was very similar to the offense in the first quarter. After I hit a buzzer beater three, the other team was the team hanging their heads as they walked off the court. We started clapping hysterically as we walked off the court. Even our coach had a smile on her face, but she looked like she had a lot to talk to us about. "Lucas, I think we're in trouble," David whispered to me. "You might be in trouble, Mister Fouls, but I don't see what I did wrong!" I answered back. David had four fouls, so my coach would probably sit him until the fourth quarter. I knew I had 17 points. My coach looked at me sternly. I was wondering if she overheard me, but if she did, she did a good job hiding it. "Lucas, I am very disappointed in the way you are playing. And David has four fouls, so he won't play for the rest of the game!" My coach was staring at us, enraged. Then she started cracking up. "I'm just kidding. Lucas has done a great job and David will keep playing!" David and I exchanged relieved looks. "David, you can play as long as you try to cut back on the fouls. One more and I will pull you out until halfway through the fourth. Okay? Good. The score is 51-53. We need to play honest defense and not let them drive!" We were losing, but we had high hopes for a comeback.
From the start of the third quarter, the other team was starting to crush our dreams. They were making it look like we would never score a point against them. They had outscored us 12 -2 in only 2 minutes. My coach called a timeout to stop the momentum, and all of us were looking down at the ground, not meeting our coach's eyes. Coming out of the timeout, I hit two three-pointers and assisted another three. We were back in it. With two minutes left in the third, I had 28 points and we were down by four. I slowly brought the ball down the floor and did a quick crossover to beat my defender for an easy layup. Everyone erupted in cheer, but the sound quieted down after the other team made a long jump shot. I knew I was going to pull up for a wide open three to end the third quarter. My defender gave me space, still thinking I was awful, and I hit nothing but net. I was glad it went in, but I was still upset that the other team disrespected my jump shot. One point game. They hit a two at the buzzer, my team collapsing on defense at the end of the third.
The start of the fourth went their way from the start. They outscored us 8-2 in the first minute in the final quarter. 11 point game, seven minutes left. They started to not play perimeter defense on me, and I hit three threes in a row, them only scoring a fast break layup. "Game on!" I muttered to myself. Four point game, but we had all the momentum in the world. My coach put David back in. “You better not commit any dumb fouls!” I forcefully told David as he walked onto the floor. As if right on cue, David tries to draw the charge. It was as if he was moving in slow motion, I saw his feet still shuffling. The offensive player ran into him, easily drawing the block. David fouled out. Our second best player would be out of the game if he committed one more foul. If worse came to worse, I would have to finish this on my own. “Come on, man!” One of my teammates yelled at David as the ref called the foul, David's head low. My passing was on point for the next three minutes. I had six assists and four points. Three minutes left, we were still down by four. The butterflies in my stomach were growing bigger, and the other team still wasn’t respecting my jump shot, even though I was nine for twelve from downtown. It was the best I’ve ever been. Also, I was dog tired. I felt like I couldn’t walk. With every step I took, my legs, ankles, and feet were all yelling at me to stop. "I'm not going to stop moving until this game was over. Come on, legs! Just four more minutes!” I silently commanded my legs.
I already had a double-double, but right now the most important thing was winning the game. I slowly dribbled the ball down the court, my hands shaking. The defender pressured me, but I shot-faked, got him in the air, and went right in, drawing the foul and putting the layup in. In my mind, I was glad they finally respected my jump shot. “And-one!!” I cheered. Everyone from the other team looked at me like I was crazy. That was before they realized that if I made the free throw I would have forty points. My legs were shaking more than they ever had, and my shot made an awful sound as it clinked off the iron. The other team got the rebound and scored on the fast break. I came down, called for a screen, dribbled around it, and banked in a big three. We were one point behind.
“Come on! Get back on D!” I called out to my teammates as we rushed back to prevent the fast break. The offensive player was attacking the rim, but our center ran back just in time to swat the shot. Sweat poured down everyone's faces as the players were pushing themselves to keep standing. The crowd was upset. They wanted the ref to call the foul. Our center just ignored the fans, giving no sign that they heard him, giving me a playful smirk. There were thirty seconds left and we were down by one point. I was going to hold it for the last shot. I slowly dribbled the ball down the floor and waited for the game clock to be reduced to five seconds. People doubted me for the whole game, and I kept on feeling the doubt lingering in the air, but in the end, it really didn't matter. Who was in control of the game? I was! Who was the only person that could decide the outcome? I was!
The tension was building up in the stands. Meanwhile, I saw my teammate wide open under the basket while I was double teamed. I whipped a pass over to him, and he banked in a layup right as the buzzer sounded. The final buzzer sounded like the most beautiful thing in the world. “Yes!” I yelled. The final score was 92-91. We won the championship! We shook hands, but I was smiling the whole time, awaiting the trophy ceremony. The kids that doubted me were now staring at the ground, ashamed. I had 44 points, my career high. It felt good, winning this game. I was proud of the way my team played, including David. I looked over at him and saw him hanging his head. He was sitting on the bench. I walked over to him, ready to cheer him up. I knew it would be easy, I felt as if I had all of the cheer in the world.