“You don’t look happy,” Kelley said after entering Pat’s office to find the head coach glaring at a piece of paper on her desk.
“I’m not,” Pat grumbled. “Our first pre-season game is ten days away and we’ve still got too many players in camp.”
“I was thinking the same thing this morning,” Kelley said settling into one of the two empty chairs opposite Pat’s desk. “Where’s Sherry?”
“Right here,” the other assistant coach said as she rushed into the room. “Sorry,” she told Pat who was never happy when meetings didn’t start on time. “I was working with Wilson on her free throws,” she explained as she sat down.
“Any improvement?” Pat asked.
“Yes. What did I miss?” Sherry asked.
“Nothing,” Pat answered opening a notebook and flipping to a blank page. “We had six open positions at start of camp,” she started. “One I took. I’m thinking Dimchek, Hudson, Karam, and Killen—with the last three being reserves. Your thoughts?” she asked looking at her assistant coaches.
“Matches my list,” Sherry said.
“No arguments from me on those four,” Kelley agreed.
“Okay,” Pat said as she wrote each of the players names on the page. “Now, for the hard part… who’s going to be the last reserve?”
“I’d love to say Wilson,” Sherry started, “but we’re already packed at the guard position.”
“You won’t like this but my vote goes to Jackson,” Kelley declared cautiously then quickly continued when she saw the look of displeasure on Pat’s face. “Look, Coach, I know she’s a royal pain in the ass but she has really shown improvement the last few weeks. And we need another post player with Stacy twisting her knee yesterday. Hopefully, it won’t keep her off the court for very long but…”
“Much as I hate to say it,” Sherry said, “I have to agree with Kelley.”
Pat looked at her assistant in surprise.
Sherry shook her head in frustration. “Damn, I really hate admitting that but I know it’s for personal reasons and I’m trying hard to look at this from a coaching standpoint.”
“Hmmm,” Pat muttered. “I was hoping for an easier decision.”
“You mean you agree we should keep Jackson but you really want to cut her,” Kelley offered with a smile to let her coach know she understood her conflict.
Pat looked across her desk at her assistants. “Yeah. But you’re right, she has improved and I just can’t justify another guard on the roster. And the rest of them just aren’t worth it.”
“So, Jackson makes six?” Kelley asked.
“Jackson makes six,” Pat agreed then she added the rookie’s name to her list. “I’ll get this up to Mac and we’ll send them up after practice to sign their contracts.”
“Bummer,” Sherry muttered. “I really think Wilson has some good possibilities.”
“I do, too,” Pat commented. “But that’s the way the ball bounces. We don’t need guards, we need post players… even if they might be trouble.” She stood up. “Let’s go share the news and get the cut players out of here so we can start concentrating on the season.”
Kelley stood then turned for the office door followed by Sherry.
“Go get the players together,” Pat said reaching for her phone. “Let me give Mac a call. I’ll be right out.”
After Pat told the players which rookies would be staying, Sherry took the roster players to the far end of the arena to start warm-ups leaving the other two coaches with the disappointed rookies. “I want to thank all of you for the effort you showed in camp. Unfortunately, I just don’t have enough positions open for all of you. If any of you are interested Coach Stockley has information on the other teams in the league and what positions they are still trying to fill.”
“Let’s take this to the locker room, ladies,” Kelley said as she was surrounded by the cut players calling out questions to her.
“Thanks, Kelley,” Pat told her assistant then waited until the group disappeared into the corridor before trotting down the court to Sherry. “Warm-ups done?”
Pat blew her whistle. “Form three lines at mid-court,” she instructed the players. “Pete, grab a ball. Jade, Ashley take up positions at the top of the key.” Pat waited for the players to complete her instructions then stand and looked back at her expectedly. “The Cougars play a fast paced game. That means you have to be thinking all the time. Yes, we have set plays but there is no guarantee that the defense won’t figure out what we are trying to do. So, you have to have options. When you are working the ball to the basket, you have to know where your teammates are; where your defenders are, and what you can do in case your set path is blocked. OPTIONS! Ever single one of you must be thinking of options. Got it?”
“Got it, Coach,” the players roared back.
“Let’s see if you really do. Pete is going to pass the ball to a player at the front of one of the lines. When she does, all three players will start down court. Work together to get the ball to the basket because your defenders will not do the same thing twice.” Pat started toward the side of the court the stopped. “Oh, and one more thing… from this point forward, I do not want to see anyone walking. Got it?”
“Got it, Coach!”
“Gallagher, you’re with me,” Pat said as she resumed her walk to the sidelines. “Get them started,” she told Sherry after she ran over to stand beside her. “I’m going to go up a few rows to watch.”
Sherry turned to players. “Okay, Pete, whenever you’re ready,” she shouted.
Pete looked at each of the players standing at the front of the three lines. Latesha, Hudson, and Dimchek looked back at her, each anticipating the pass. She fired the ball at Hudson.
Hudson, standing at the head of the middle line, started running even before the ball reached her hands. Seeing Pete move out to guard her, she bounce passed the ball to Latesha on her right.
With her long arms spread wide, Jade moved a few steps toward Latesha but kept her position equal distance between the forward and Hudson.
Seeing Dimchek make a move to cross through the key in front of Ashley, Latesha took two quick steps directly at Jade then abruptly pulled up and passed the ball to Dimchek.
Catching the ball in the middle of the key, Dimchek spun around for a jump shot only to find herself in the air with Ashley closely guarding her. Knowing she could never get a shot over the taller player, she turned her head to find one of her teammates for a quick pass.
Pat’s whistle blew at the same time Dimchek’s landed back on the court. “Everybody freeze,” she shouted. “Dimchek, you would have been called for traveling and we would have lost possession. Did you really think Ashley wasn’t going to be there?” she asked the rookie then continued before she could answer. “Where are your teammates?” This time she waited for a response.
Dimchek was standing in the middle of the key facing the basket with Ashley only inches from her. “Not sure, Coach,” the rookie admitted.
Dimchek did as her coach ordered. Latesha was several feet to her left with Jade less than a foot from her. Hudson was standing at the top of the key completely unguarded as Pete, buying Latesha’s fake move toward the basket, had moved over to help Jade.
“Options?” Pat asked.
For an answer, Dimchek flipped the ball to Hudson who immediately popped into the air for a jump shot.
“Very good,” Pat said after the ball dropped cleanly through the basket. “Next three.”
Dimchek, Hudson, and Latesha ran to the back of their respective lines.
“Rotate over to the next line,” Sherry told the three players. “Cougars never do anything the same way twice,” she reminded them. “Let’s go, Pete.”
“Boy, am I glad camp is over,” Sherry said with a sigh as she unlocked the front door of the house she shared with her lover.
“Technically, it isn’t until Friday,” Pat commented following her inside.
“True, but the player cuts are over and I’m glad to have those behind us.”
“Yeah, me, too.” Pat carried the bags from a take out restaurant into the kitchen and set them down on the counter.
“I’m pretty sure this isn’t on the approved nutrition list, Coach,” Sherry teased opening the cupboard and pulling out two plates.
“Don’t care. I’ve been craving a greasy burger all week.”
“Are we eating here or out on the deck?”
“Here. I’m too pooped to walk that far.” Pat took the burgers out of one of the bags, unwrapping them before placing them on the plates. “Tell me again why I decided to do double duty this year,” she grumbled splitting the container of French fries between their plates.
Sherry carefully lifted two chocolate shakes from the other bag. “Because you felt sorry for me and decided to share my pain,” she said carrying the shakes to the kitchen table.
“As if,” Pat snorted. She picked the plates off the counter and carried them to the table. “This is what I get for letting my ego get the best of me,” she said dropping onto the chair Sherry had pulled out for her.
Sherry took a bite of her burger while she studied her lover. “Is that what it really was?”
“Huh?” Pat asked after swallowing some fries.
“Your ego,” Sherry said. “I was kinda hoping that you wanted to play… well… for me.”
Pat laughed. “Now whose ego are we talking about?”
“Hey, I admit it. I was really, really happy when you told me.”
“I remember. You kept me up half the night demonstrating just how much you wanted to play with me,” Pat said with a grin.
Sherry felt the flush coloring her cheeks. “Dammit, Pat,” she groaned then threw a French fry at her smirking lover. “I meant on the court.”
“I know,” Pat said laughing.
Sherry took a sip of her shake. “So, was it really just ego telling you to put on the uniform?” she asked again after swallowing.
Considering her answer, Pat enjoyed a bite of her burger. “Yeah, I think when you get right down to it, it was. I mean, yes, I wanted to have the opportunity to share the court with you… and Pete, and the others. And, yes, I wanted to see if I could play at this level. But isn’t that just ego?” she asked with a shrug.
“I suppose,” Sherry unenthusiastically agreed then she grinned. “But whatever you want to call it, I’m still really happy you decided to do it.”
“I wish this old body was as happy about it as you are.”
Sherry rolled her eyes. “Finish your dinner, Grandma, it’s past your bedtime,” she said sarcastically.
“Ha, ha, ha.”
After finishing their dinner, the women moved into the front room to snuggle together on the couch. The television was on but neither of them was paying much attention to the ghost hunting show playing.
“Isn’t this a re-run?” Pat asked.
“Yes. But I like to watch them again so I can look for signs of faking evidence.”
“If you don’t believe them why watch them at all?”
“It’s not so much as I don’t believe,” Sherry said thoughtfully, “it’s more that I’m not sure what to believe. After all, do we really know?”
“Do we want to?”
“Probably not.” Sherry reached for the remote and turned off the set. “So, if you don’t want to watch TV,” she said squirming into a more comfortable position, “what would you like to do?”
Pat kissed the top of her lover’s head. “I’d like to take you to bed.”
Sherry slipped a hand under Pat’s shirt. “Oooh, that sounds nice.”
“Slow down, tiger,” Pat stopped her lover’s explorations. “As much as I’d love to do what you’re thinking,” she yawned, “all I have energy for is holding your hand while we walk down the hallway and fall into bed. “I really am beat.”
Halfheartedly, Sherry pushed herself up from the couch. “Okay,” she said grabbing hold of Pat’s hands and pulling her to her feet. “Let’s go to sleep.”
Pat wrapped her arms around her lover. “I’m sorry, babe.”
“Don’t be,” Sherry said then tenderly kissed Pat. “I probably would have fallen asleep had we tried anything tonight.”
Pat laughed. “Come on,” she said tugging Sherry across the room.
“Isn’t it a bad thing to go to bed right after eating hamburgers and fries?” Sherry asked flipping off the kitchen light on their way past it.
Pat yawned again. “Absolutely. You can run an extra five laps around the court tomorrow.”
“What about you?”
“As head coach, I’m pretty sure I’ll be much toooooo busy.”
To Be Continued...
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