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Shot Blocked

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For most twelve-year-old basketball players, a chance to compete in a city-wide championship is a dream. That dream was a reality for my team. I had the chance—my chance—to make my mark on the Junior Basketball Association’s champion’s record book.


My team’s story began that first practice at Stapley Junior High’s basketball gym. My team—Scott, CJ, Conner, Dallin, Robert, Austin, Tyler, and I arrived that night with many wondrous ideas of what this memorable practice might be like. Coach Cook, Scott’s Dad and our head coach, began the practice by sitting us in a circle. After getting to know all of our new teammates, coach began his opening speech. It was one like I had never heard before. He seemed determined to win, but he also stated that our team would not only learn to become better basketball players, we would learn to work, and he meant work.


Our next few practices were some of the most challenging and grueling experiences of my life. I remember one practice in particular when coach said that every time we missed a simple lay-up he would add one more suicide drill. This drill involved strenuous running exercises. We had to set aside one practice just for that gruesome drill. Sometimes when practice started I was incensed with my coach, but by the time it ended, my teammates and I were convinced that he was only working us hard for our benefit.


When the games rolled along we were prepared. My team went undefeated until our fifth game losing to our new rivals by only three points! At the end of the game coach was only pleased we had learned a lesson in humility. He said we would now have the motivation to work even harder in our practices. After the rest of our regular season games, which we won, it was time for the playoffs. My team and I felt pretty confident that we could take it all the way to the championship but were still very cautious in our pride.


As we had expected, all of our playoff games were easy wins until the finals. That bright, chilly Saturday morning arrived like a present that couldn’t be opened yet. At precisely 10:30 AM I entered Shepherd’s basketball gym, my heart pounding with excitement. Coach was already there, along with three other teammates who were warming up and stretching. Our opponents (disappointingly, the team we had lost to during the beginning of the season) were already there doing lay-ups. They looked stronger and taller and more intimidating that before. In my mind, they were Goliath and we were David. When both teams had finished warm-ups the game began. I was playing left shooting guard, my best position. I was a soldier ready for battle.


The game seemed to breeze along as our team finished the first half leading by six points. I could tell my team was playing their best ball and we were prepared to win. The other team, disappointed by the fact they were behind, glared at my team with disdain. At halftime we had five minutes to take a break. During break our coach congratulated us on how well we had been playing, but like a wise-old sage, assured us it would still be a challenge for us to win. The second half of our game started with me sinking a three-point—putting us in quite a lead. I spun around as if in slow motion, seemingly able to see every fan individually screaming my name.

But sure enough, we had become overconfident. Coach was right, and with only a minute and a half left we were down five points. My team seemed to be losing control. Like an elementary school teacher with a migraine, I tried to shut out my surrounds. I refocused my concentration and scored the next four points, putting us behind the team by only one point with twenty-seven seconds to go. Then lade-luck appeared. The very next play our opponent made a bad move. The opposing team’s point guard committed a charging foul on CJ giving him three opportunities at the free-throw line. CJ, one of our best shooters, made two out of the three shots putting us in the lead by one. Thirteen seconds were left in this decisive game. My head was exploding with excitement and fear. If the other team made this next shot they would win. I remember the last play vividly. The opposing point guard ran the ball down the court and then passed it to their best shooter, the guy I was guarding. My opponent began to wind up his shot and with perfect form the ball left his hands. I leapt into the air with Herculean strength, my right hand tipping the ball and causing it to go out of bounds. The buzzer sounded.


We had won. We had completed our season-long goal of becoming number one in the city. After both teams had shaken hands and we were presented with our victory trophy, coach sat us down and talked and talked. He spoke of how well our season had gone and of how proud he was of us. He also spoke of the lessons we had learned outside of basketball and told us to think of what they were and to apply them in everything we do.


I remember driving home thinking of the words coach said and I decided that the lessons I had learned from this season were had work, determination, humility, and most of all the ability to work as a team. Although my ability to play basketball improved greatly that season, the lessons learned seemed of even greater importance to me. Now I had committed to applying them to my daily life and to this day I am noticing the great effects it has had on my life.





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