Three and a Half Seconds This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   Three and a half seconds left. I stared straight ahead,not looking at the basket, my teammates or the coach. From the sidelines came afaint sound of voices, stomping, clapping, but I paid little attention.

Iglanced at the floor. Nail, nail, where is the nail? There it is. I was not sureif I said this aloud or just thought it. My right foot slid slowly to the left ofthe nail, marking the center of the line. Too far ... a little to the right ...perfect. I lost focus for almost a second, and my ears filled with the roars andcheers from the crowd.

"Take your time!" I heard a voice - deep,raspy and loud enough to hear above the others - as if this advice woulddetermine the fate of the game.

Concentrate. You can do it. It is going togo in. You know it will. Again, did I say this aloud? Bend your knees, you aretired. Just use your legs, but not too much or it will hit the back of the rim.Don't worry, just like you practiced. If you don't make it now, all that practicewill have been for nothing. Just make the damn shot! Stop talking to yourself.Keep your arm tucked in, elbow straight. Bend your knees. Follow through. You cando it.

The blaring of the crowd turned to silence, maybe just in my head.It didn't matter. I looked at the referee. His forehead was glistening in the dimlights of the gym; sweat had condensed on his face and begun to dripdown.

I grasped my uniform and ran my hands from my back to my sides,paused at my lower ribs where the uniform was dry, then to my stomach, down to mythighs and brushed against my shorts. They were soaked, and the sweat accumulatedfaster than it could be absorbed by the already saturated uniform, so I decidedit was of little use to try to dry them again.

The ball left the handsof the referee and bounced once. The hollow sound on the hardwood floor silencedthe crowd, I was sure of it. The ball hit my fingertips and I grasped it loosely,turning it in my hands until my fingers were perpendicular to the horizontalseams. The ball was soft and smooth, and it helped to absorb the perspiration onmy palms.

I took one look at the basket, then turned my head down to theball again. It left my hands and hit the floor. One. I found the ball in my handsagain, and on instinct, released it. Two. One more dribble and my routine wouldbe complete. Three. The ball was in my hands once again. You are going to makethis shot.

I raised the ball in front of me, hands tightly gripping theball. As my arms moved parallel to the floor, my elbow began to bend slowly, justat the right pace, so that by the time the ball was in the perfect position, tothe right of my face, my elbow was a perfect right angle. Simultaneously my kneesbent and my arm lowered, decreasing the angle. You are tired. Bend your knees alittle more. In one quick motion, my knees and arms sprang up and the ball was nolonger in my hands.

Go in! Go in! Thoughts raced through my mind. Would itbe too short? Did I follow through correctly? What if it doesn't go in?

Iwatched the path of the ball as it floated through the air and made its way down.The ball nicked the back of the rim and fell easily through the net. It hit thefloor with a thud and my knees became weak. With a sigh of relief, I smiled andlooked at my teammates. I listened to the roaring crowd for encouragement. Thescore was tied, and the fate of the game was up to me, with one shot to go. Threeand a half seconds left.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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C"> said...
today at 6:12 am
i like nice poem
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