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The Winning Shot
Panting, sweating, shouting. The sound of pounding feet filled the court as everyone ran back to their places on the opposite side. Sarah, the point guard dribbled the slightly faded basketball up and down, up and down. Like me, all the other 5th graders on the court were struggling to get open and away from their opponent. But most of them were much bigger than us, towering over me, usually the tall one, in their bulky green and yellow jerseys. I looked at the stands. About seventy five to eighty five happy parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, and bored siblings filled every single chair on our side, while the green and yellow team only had about ten people or so. Everyone was cheering for their child, overpowering the shouts of my teammates. Intense eyes, including mine occasionally, were on the blinking scoreboard: 4th quarter, four minutes, twenty seconds, 30-32. We were winning.
As I saw Leah get ready to call the play, I drowned everything out and watched her carefully.
'Play #2!' she yelled before passing the ball to Maria like she was supposed to. This was the play where I had to set the screen as Leah ran past me to the other side. Great. This was my third time playing basketball in my life, and I still didn't know what a screen was.
Maria was dribbling now, waiting for Leah to come out to the other box, after coming around to my side, and the other forward and I set the screen.
'Lexi! Set it! Set the screen!' Leah whispered hoarsely a few feet away, her opponent huffing and puffing behind her. I saw that she had a muscular build to her and bright, majestic blue eyes. She charged after Leah.
I never did like Leah. To me, she was very obnoxious, and at the time, had told on me all the time. But right now as I saw her worried face, rushing closer, none of that mattered anymore. We could be enemies off the court, but on the court, we're a team, watching out for each other no matter what.
So I hacked into my brain, searching files, seeing if I could remember what a screen was. Oh, why hadn't I saved it once I learned it at practice the other night! I wish Air bud would come save me, with his amazing talents at sports.
'Lexi!' Leah was two feet away now. I tried to get away from my opponent but she wasn't even letting me move, let alone going to let me win. She got down lower than I could even though she was taller and bigger than me.
'Lexi!' Leah was about to pass me up. I tried pushing my girl away from me, anything to block Leah's girl from catching up with her, and preventing her from completing the play we practiced extremely hard on for the first time last night. Little did I know the tactics on how to get open back then. I felt like I was underwater, and I couldn't move fast enough to my destination like those dreams that you have and you can't seem to be able to move.
'Get away from your girl! Lexi!'
Too late. Leah passed me up with her girl following close behind. A sagging pit of guilt settled in my throat as I watched the next forward she came to do exactly what I should've done, making an obvious gap between the two. Leah ran up to Maria and told her to pass the ball back. Maria did. Out of nowhere, a girl jumped up and caught the ball and began pounding it back to the opposite basket. We ran down the court, every last one of our breaths being pulled away from our lungs at every step we took. This girl was fast. Her long legs made long strides toward the ever-approaching hoop. They made my shorter legs look like twigs compared to hers. Seeing that my nickname was the Tree, it was only fit to feel strange when I saw this girl with log sized legs. She ran up towards the basket, making a beautiful lay-up, something that would cause us to run suicides in practice tomorrow for letting her make an easy shot like that. 32-32, two minutes left.
Amber got the rebound and passed it to Kathy, who had just been called in for Leah.
'Don't let them steal the ball again, ladies, or it's another five suicides!' Coach Brown yelled out to us from her seat on the sideline.
'Hustle Amber! Get to the box!'
Kathy dribbled the ball down to our basket. She called a play that I knew well. I ran to the guard's zone and the guard, Maria ran down to the block so Kathy could pass it to them and they would be able to make a jump shot. But once again, that long-legged girl came out of nowhere, snatched the ball, turned around, and charged down our basket. The other team's small audience cheered, which was surprisingly audible over everything else.
Although no one could've possibly wanted suicides tomorrow, I didn't want them even more. I ran as fast as I could, even though my lungs were tightening from the exhaustion I felt. My hands found the ball and I pivoted, trying not to look down as the Spalding hit the floor. I passed to Amber, but two people blocked her from the hoop. One minute, five seconds. Katie passed it back yelling to make a shot. But I was far behind the three-pointer line and I didn't have enough courage that my fifth grade arms could make such a strong, accurate shot from there. Anxious thoughts went through my mind. What if I don't make the shot? Will all my teammates feel anger towards me at the next few practices we have? Did I practice that shooting technique the coaches taught us? Will I be humiliated for the rest of my life? Is it even worth it? Thirty seconds left.
The others were behind me, sneering at me, trying to grab the ball and win the game. They were like gremlins. I passed it to Maria, but she did the same as Katie. I looked into the stands. I saw my little brother, Mom and Dad. they smiled and told me that I could do it.
I was happy my parents were there. They were always there for me, everywhere we went and they didn't care if I didn't do well. They wouldn't make me run suicides or yell at me, because I didn't know what a screen was. They were happy I was even out there and that changed my perspective on the game. To me, even though they may be in the back row of the school's bleachers, they were considered a front row seat for me, always first, in my life, at my games, and forever. Fifteen seconds left.
Dribbling to the basket, I became unstoppable. The adrenaline made me feel like I was a superhero. Sweat beads rolled down my neck. Five seconds left. I jump stopped, right outside the three-pointer line. 5'4'3'2'
My arms formed the word B.E.E.F with their actions (B= balance, E= eyes on the basket, E= elbow in line with knees, F= follow through with your shot) and I shot the ball toward the basket and out of my hands. One second'Beeeeeeeeeeeeep!!! went the bell.
The ball made a safe landing into the hoop, making a 'swish' as it went in. Three points. We won! The crowd cheered.
Without the help of Air bud, I had finally had the courage to do something only bravery would allow. My teammates gave me hi-fives and hugs, telling me I did a great job. I followed them to our coach who handed out snacks and drinks.
That night, I learned something. I learned that it's okay to make mistakes and to learn from them. I learned that in order to live life, a mistake here and there is a nutritious source of wisdom to a healthy lifestyle. If you fall on your knees, you just get right back up. And then you try, try again.
My next mission for when I turned eleven years old: What's a screen?
Well, luckily, I know that now.