Heart of a Champion This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I pulled into the school parking lot. This is it: finally time to show off my abilities, I thought. I stepped ­into the gym and immediately smelled sweat from our hard practice the night ­before.

I knew I had to dominate this game if I wanted to be noticed by any college scouts who were there. I had worked hard all season, anticipating this moment.

Trying not to let my excitement and anxiety show, I waved to my teammates. As I walked over to join them stretching on the floor, I felt a tingling sensation run through my body – I was so nervous.

In the locker room our coach gave a pre-game speech. I was too excited to pay attention. All I heard was, “This is it for the seniors – do or die.” She was right; if I lost now, my season was over.

We all huddled and I yelled, “Intensity on three: one, two, three!”

“Intensity!” shouted the team. Everyone sprinted onto the court to warm up. I watched the other team and decided that they were going to be tough, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

The announcer began to introduce the starters. “Beginning with the visitors, at 5'5" we have number 11, Katie Smith …”

“And for the home team …” He announced the first four of the starting five. “Forward, six-foot, ASHLEY MCCALL!” I sprang up and ran down the lane, my teammates smacking my hand. At the end was my coach, who said, “Leave it all on the court.”

I sized up my opponent as I stood in the jump ball circle. She had a firm grip when I shook her hand, but I felt she was the weaker player. I was still shaking with fear when the ref blew the whistle. I jumped, reaching as high as I could and, with relief, tipped the ball back to my point guard. I was proud we could start the game with a possession.

My point guard called for our ­motion play. I set a screen for my shooting guard; she popped out and received a fast catch from the point guard. I posted up on the opposing post player; she was strong but I knew if I could fake her out, I could easily get around her.

After calling for the ball, Sara, our shooting guard, passed it to me. I faced the basket and faked a shot. The girl jumped. Yes! I thought. I stepped around her and scored the first points of the game. I felt great.

The other team scored a quick three pointer. That girl was going to be a good shooter all game, I suspected.

At half-time the score was tied at 42. I had scored 15 points. I could hear my dad yelling and acting like a second coach. I was burning for a win and I was not going to stop until I got it.

The third quarter began. I wanted the ball so bad; I tried to steal it from the other team. The referee called a foul without hesitation. This was a huge mistake since I had already committed two fouls. I had to calm down and play smart. If I tried too hard, I would lose the game. I had to trust my teammates.

With only one minute left, my team was down by two. If we were going to win, we needed to get the ball, quickly score, and play great defense. The ball was passed in, and I drove to the basket. I was able to score a quick two, according to plan. “Play defense!” I yelled. The crowd was cheering. Both benches were on their feet.

My team was nervous but ready to win. We forced a turnover by trapping the ball, causing the opposition to throw it out of bounds. We had possession with 23 seconds left. Even though I had 26 points, I wanted more than anything to make the game-winning shot. I passed the ball inbounds to my point guard; she ran 10 seconds off the clock so we could ensure a final shot.

She called out “Red,” so I set a screen on her defender. I rolled to the basket and she hit me with the pass. As soon as I caught the ball I was triple-teamed. With three seconds left, I passed the ball back to her.

She shot a two-point jumper and I watched as the ball soared through the air and swished through the net. Everyone ran onto the court to celebrate. I hadn’t made the game-winning shot, but I was too excited to care.

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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This article has 23 comments. Post your own now!

solot said...
Oct. 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm
I felt the nerves and adrenaline just reading this piece. You described pre-game jitters perfectly when you said, "As I walked over to join them stretching on the floor, I felt a tingling sensation run through my body - I was nervous." I can relate to this statement because I feel the same uneasiness before an important game. The feeling of accomplishment is so overwhelming just like when you said, "Everybody ran onto the court to celebrate." You are a true champion and I... (more »)
 
dreamer_believer said...
Jul. 30, 2009 at 10:37 pm
this is a really great story. i'm going to remember this when i try out for my team this year. it's great...you have heart for writing...and for basketball!! inspirational :)
 
shanikya B. said...
May 27, 2009 at 10:45 pm
OMG. THIS STORY IS AMAZING I WAS SO INTO IT I WANTED TO READ MORE....
 
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