The sound of the referee’s whistle filled my ears. Sweat dripped off me, my legs felt heavy, my lungs begged for oxygen, my head throbbed. I let out a cough, sat down on my cushioned seat, glanced up at the navy scoreboard: 58.7 seconds left. Our lead was eight, but it felt like two. I needed water as if I were stranded in a dessert.
Our lead dwindled, much like my stamina. Switching my attention to our coach’s whiteboard, I saw our press-breaker, spread, drawn up. We got the 15-second warning from the ref, and our coach said, “If you get a shot, do not shoot.” I squirted water in my mouth. Some splashed off my teeth and onto my sweat-soaked jersey. The horn blew. Coach’s words echoed in my head while I jogged to my spot right in front of the opposing bench. Waiting for Lisle to exit their huddle, I looked up at the bright lights; I felt like an NBA player.
Peter took the ball out and slapped it to initiate our play; I faked short but went long. As my man went to double the ball, I saw it floating toward me. My instincts took over. The court ahead of me was wide open, only the basket in front of me. A wide-open layup presented itself; thus, I forget what my coach barked at us a mere 30 seconds earlier. The crowd roared louder as they too saw the points-per-game boost within my grasp. I took a dribble and reached toward the rim. My sweaty hand let go of the ball. The layup bounced off the backboard, clanked off the rim, and rolled in – then out. I blinked, then I saw the ball soar across the court. A Lisle player strode out into a wide-open layup. The shocked faces in the crowd pierced my soul. What had I done? I stood frozen, unable to comprehend what had just happened. The ref’s whistle filled my head again: Lisle timeout.
I took a seat on the bench. With s our lead down to six, the look on Coach’s face said it all. Again I looked up at the bright yellow numbers on the clock: 32.6 seconds left, plenty of time for our lead to slip like the ball from my hand. Only into the third game of my career, and I had gained the reputation of disobeying coaches. Could this destroy my season? What about my career? I swished around a big gulp of water in my mouth and took a deep breath. Then I heard a screaming voice: “Tell me – what did I just say, Will!”
Head down,sweat dripping off me, I replied, “Do not shoot.”
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.