This story is a sequel to my stories , Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) . You may want to read the preceding stories before reading this one. Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) can be found on my on my website – mickeyminner.com
Early Monday morning, Kelley walked into the coaching staff's office to find the lights already turned on and the door to Pat's office open. She bypassed her desk to walk toward the sound of voices. “Morning,” she greeted as she entered the room.
Pat was seated behind her desk studying several sheets of paper neatly laid out in front of her. Sherry was seated in one of the chairs in front of the head coach's desk, her long legs propped up on the edge of the desk and writing notes on the clipboard resting on her thighs. Both women were dressed in their practice uniforms.
“Morning, Kelley. Good weekend?” Pat asked.
“Not too bad. How about yours?” Kelley asked as she sat down.
“Great!” Sherry immediately responded dropping her feet to the floor.
“Looks like you took Lizzie's advice,” Kelley said smiling.
“I hope you took the weekend off, too,” Pat said.
“Spent most of it on my couch watching old movies and sleeping.”
“Sounds like a productive weekend,” Sherry said with a grin.
Kelley laughed. “It was.”
“Okay, time to get back to work. Kelley, I want to give Dimchek a try at post.”
“Any particular reason?” Kelley asked.
“We're heavy at forward and light at post. Dimchek has the size. And she's willing to play anywhere we need her.”
“I agree with you there,” Kelley agreed. “I guess it won't hurt to see if she can make the switch.”
“And I want to look at moving Stacy into the starting lineup.”
“In place of?”
Kelley nodded. “She did lose a step over the off season.”
“Maybe thinking too much about this being her last year,” Sherry offered.
Kelley nodded again. “Could be.”
“Alright. Keep those changes in mind. We'll talk about them again later.”
“Are we running drills today, Coach,” Kelley asked.
“No. Our first pre-season game is in four weeks. That's our time to show the rest of the league that, not only do we plan to defend our title, but we're ready and able to do so. This week, we'll be concentrating on learning the new plays. Everybody, including reserves, need to know them by the end of the week. Understood?”
Sherry and Kelley both nodded.
“Alrighty,” Pat said rubbing her hands together. “Shall we go greet our players?”
“And the fun begins,” Kelley said wryly rising out of her chair.
Pat grinned. “So it does.”
Followed by her assistant coaches, Pat walked into the locker room. She was pleased to see that all of the signed players were suited up and ready to begin practice. “Good morning,” she greeted them.
“Morning, Coach,” came the shouted reply in a chorus of voices.
“I hope you're all ready to work your butts off.”
“We're ready, Coach,” Pete answered.
“Good to hear. For you rookies, camp was nothing compared to the next few weeks. We'll be working harder and longer every day. I expect, when we run out on the court for our first game, that we'll be sending a message to the rest of the league that last year wasn't a lucky fluke.”
“It sure wasn't,” Jade stated forcefully.
“The Cougars are for real,” Latesha shouted.
“That's for sure,” Pete said.
“We're going after that trophy again this year,” Amie declared.
“We're not just going for it,” Wendy said pumping her fist in the air. “We're going to bring it back again!”
Shouts of agreement filled the locker room.
Pat waited for the players to quiet. “Rookies, I expect you to be paying close attention to everything you see and hear. Take advantage of the knowledge our veterans have. Ask them questions. You'll be doing yourselves a big favor if you do. Listen to them. If you think you already know everything, you won't last long in this league. Got it?”
“Got it, Coach,” Dimchek and Wilson responded together.
“Okay. Now if we plan to get back that trophy, we sure can't do it by sitting in here,” Pat told the players then grinned when, as a group, they jumped up and ran out of the room.
“We'll you can't say they aren't pumped up,” Sherry said listening to the players shouts as they rushed out onto the arena floor.
“Nope, you can't say that,” Kelley agreed as she led Pat and Sherry out into the corridor still echoing with enthusiastic yells.
Five players were on the court. Sherry was standing at the top of the key dribbling in place while she let her teammates, Latesha and Sara, work free of their defenders, Jackson and Terry.
Sara faked a move to Terry's right then abruptly spun around to her left.
Seeing Sara momentarily free of her defender, Jackson dropped her focus on Latesha and faded over to help Terry.
Latesha dropped back from Jackson and found herself all alone in the bottom of the key.
Sherry fired the ball to Latesha who executed a perfect lay-up before Jackson could recover her position.
Pat blew a sharp blast on her whistle. “Jackson, you can't let your player roll off of you like that. You left her wide open in the key.”
“I thought Terry needed help, Coach,” Jackson snapped.
“Your job is to keep Latesha away from the ball,” Pat snapped right back. “Let Terry worry about Sara. Run it again.”
Sherry trotted back to mid-court to set up the play. She slapped the ball then began her dribble back toward the top of the key.
Starting from the sideline, Latesha worked her way toward the key against Jackson's defense.
Sherry fired the ball to Sara on the left side of the key.
Jackson again relaxed her defense and focused her attention on the player with the ball allowing Latesha to roll away from her.
Pat's whistle stopped play. “How many points do you play to give away, Jackson?”
“I had her covered, Coach,” Jackson protested.
“Really? She looks pretty open to me.”
Jackson turned around to see a grinning Latesha standing all alone in the key and teasingly wiggling her fingers at the annoyed rookie.
“Listen up, people. I don't care what is going on around the court,” Pat started. “When we're playing man-to-man, you keep defending your player no matter what; I don't want us giving away any easy baskets. Got it?” she asked glaring at Jackson.
Jackson sighed in frustration. “Yeah, Coach, I got it.”
“Let's try it again.”
Sherry restarted the play then dribbled toward the top of the key. Seeing Sara putting some room between herself and Terry, she passed the ball to her.
Sara turned toward the basket but Terry had closed the gap and was preventing her from taking a good shot. She passed back to Sherry.
Latesha had worked her way to the side of the key.
This time, Jackson was sticking with Latesha and keeping her body between the player and the basket.
Latesha kept backing Jackson closer to the basket, her arm raised high to alert Sherry she was in position for a shot. The ball was passed to her. Pivoting on her left foot, she spun halfway around, keeping her right hand and the ball as far away from Jackson as she could. As she spun, she drove her left arm against Jackson's body forcing the rookie off balance. Then she lifted the ball up over her head in a perfect hook shot.
“Nice shot,” Pat said after the ball dropped through the hoop.
Kelley walked onto the court. “Jackson, don't let her push you away like that.” She stood beside the rookie. “You've got to keep your balance. Don't stand with your feet so close together.” As she talked, she demonstrated the proper position. “Try that. And lean toward her, not away from her. That just makes it easier for you to be shoved out of position.”
“Run it again,” Pat told Sherry.
The play ran almost the same as the previous attempt. But this time, when Latesha tried to push Jackson back the rookie held her position and Latesha was forced to pass the ball back to Sherry.
“Much better,” Pat told the players. “Okay, let's switch up. Pete take point. Dimchek, you guard Jade. Stacy, you're in. I'll take over for Latesha.”
“Oh, boy, this should be fun,” Stacy said grinning as she took her position opposite the coach.
“For you or me?” Pat asked.
“Hopefully, for me,” Stacy responded not too confidently.
Pete started play then dribbled toward the top of the key.
Stacy was playing Pat close, matching her step for step as she tried to work her way to the basket.
Jade faked a spin left then reversed direction. She was running to the basket before the rookie could react.
Pete flipped the ball to Jade who took one bounce then laid the ball up against the backboard to drop cleanly through the basket.
“Dimchek, don't wait to react,” Kelley told the rookie. “Anticipate what she'll do and get there first.”
“Do it again,” Pat told the players.
Pete back pedaled to mid-court. With a slap of the ball, she started play.
When Dimchek refused to react to Jade's fake, Pete looked to Pat.
Using stutter steps and head fakes, Pat was attempting to break free of Stacy's tight defense.
“Come on, Coach,” Stacy panted as she blocked each of Pat's attempts to get around her. “You've got to come up with more that that.”
Pete passed to Jade who had turned her back to Dimchek.
Jade started dribbling and tried to back her way closer to the basket. But Dimchek refused to give ground and she had to pass back to Pete.
“You think you've got me figured out?” Pat asked Stacy after the veteran player refused to react to another head fake.
Stacy grinned. “Seems so.”
“Okay, let's see if you really do.” Pat took a quick step toward Stacy. Surprised by the sudden move, the post player backed off. Pat abruptly changed directions to run away from Stacy and toward Pete who fired the ball to her coach. Catching the pass, Pat dribbled across the court.
Stacy charged after Pat.
Seeing Pat's rapid approach, Jade turned and closed the distance between herself and Dimchek.
Pat angled her steps to bring her close to Jade's back.
Taking too long to realize Pat's intention, Stacy was left little room to follow without running into the other players and pulled up to avoid a collision with Jade.
Moving freely past Jade, Pat turned to the basket and dropped a fifteen foot jumper through the net.
“Dammit, Coach,” Stacy muttered.
“That was a rookie mistake, Stacy,” Pat told the player.
“Yeah, it was,” Stacy agreed.
“Be aware of what's happening,” Pat turned to address all the players. “Don't let the player you're guarding force you into a bad situation. A good shooter only needs to be open a second to score. And,” she looked at Stacy, “don't get so confident in your skills that you let another player beat you. Okay, let's do it again.”
Sherry tossed her bag onto the back seat of the truck then jumped up into the front seat. “Ugh,” she muttered easing back against the leather.
Pat started the engine. “And, just think, its only day one of practice.”
“Don't remind me,” Sherry grumbled.
“Was it really that bad?” Pat asked releasing the parking brake.
“Not the playing,” Sherry said as she straightened and pulled on her seatbelt.
Pat laughed. “Don't tell me that you're worn out from coaching.”
“Coaching is a lot harder than it looks,” Sherry whined.
“Do tell,” Pat said mockingly.
Sherry tossed a glare at Pat then grinned sheepishly. “Preaching to the choir, uh?”
“I guess I never thought about it before. Playing comes naturedly but coaching… sheesh, I've really got to concentrate on what's going on. Then there's figuring out each player and best way to try to get them to understand what I'm telling them.”
“So, how come you make it look so easy?”
“Didn't know I did,” Pat said as she drove the across the mostly vacant parking lot to the nearest exit.
“Hmmm.” Pat checked for traffic then guided the truck onto the street. “Do you have a preference for dinner?”
“To be honest, I'm good to just go home and rummage through the kitchen for anything edible.”
Pat laughed. “Sounds inviting,” she teased.
“Then you pick a restaurant.”
“Nope. Kitchen trolling is okay with me,” Pat said turning at the intersection to drive them home.
“You troll… I'm heading straight for the hot tub.”
“Boy, do we need to hit the market one of these days,” Pat commented carrying a tray across the deck at the back of the house.
“How weird is it that neither of us likes to go shopping?” Sherry asked. She was submerged up to her chin in the gently bubbling water of the hot tub.
Pat sat the tray down on a low table beside the sauna. “Why weird?” she asked offering Sherry half of a tuna sandwich.
“Thanks.” Sherry lifted a hand out of the water to accept the sandwich. “Don't most women like to shop?”
Pat picked up the other half of the sandwich then stepped into the hot tub. “If you say so,” she said settling down into the water then taking a bite. “I wouldn't say that I don't like to shop,” she said after swallowing. “I can just always find something else to do.”
“Well, I've never like it,” Sherry said. “If I have something to buy, I go in, get it, and leave. But to just go walk around looking at stuff I don't need and won't buy… no thank you.”
“So you've never been a mall cruiser?”
“Not really. I don't mind strolling through the mall once in a while. But I usually end up buying a bunch of stuff that I shouldn't. Then I start kicking myself for wasting the money, so I try not to do it too often.”
Sherry reached for the second sandwich on the tray. “Think we need to change our ways?”
Pat took a bite and chewed as she considered the question. “Nah,” she said grinning. “That would mean we have to start acting like grown ups and I don't think I'm quite ready for that.”
Sherry laughed. “Oh, goodness, we wouldn't want that.”
Sherry finished her sandwich. “However, I do think we might want to get serious about cooking.”
“You grill a wonderful steak, sweetheart. But I don't think tuna on raisin bread would be considered acceptable cuisine in most homes.”
“Why not? I like it.”
“Then, I guess, we're good.”
Pat started to sink down under the hot water. “Damn right, we are,” she said just before she disappeared.
“Pat!” Sherry shrieked when she was pulled under the water by her lover.
To Be Continued...
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