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
Pre Season Game 3 rd Quarter – Seattle 57 – Cougars 56
“It seems like the Cougars are having some first game jitters tonight, Nancy,” one of the game announcers, a man in his forties and wearing a badly fitting toupee, told his companion.
“I have to agree with you on that, Chad,” the other announcer, a woman in her thirties, responded. “It looks like Coach Calvin still has a lot of work to do to get them ready to defend their title.”
Their first pre-season game was taking a toll on the Cougars. Seattle had arrived ready to match the home team in a fast paced game by continually rotating players in and out of play. But Pat had left her starting five on the floor for most of the game.
“Is it surprising to you that she hasn't used her bench more tonight?”
“Indeed it is,” Nancy responded. “I would think she would take advantage of these pre-season games to test her entire bench. Maybe she's still working out the kinks of being both a coach and a player… that is a lot more to think about during a game.”
“Perhaps, you're right. It is going to be a tough fight for the Cougars to pull this one out if they don't find a way to take the momentum away from Seattle.”
Keeping her eyes glued to her opponent, Sherry back pedaled over the mid-court line. Maintaining her position, she refused to shift directions even when the Seattle player faked a move to the right.
The Seattle point guard made a run straight at Sherry then, when the two players were less than a step apart, she cut to the left.
In an attempt to cut off the Seattle player from the key, Sherry sidestepped to her right.
“Watch the pick,” Pete called to Sherry.
The warning was a fraction of a second too late and Sherry crashed into a Seattle post player standing in her path.
Whistles blew and the game officials signaled Sherry for a foul.
“Time out,” Pat bellowed from the bench.
“Sorry,” Pete told Sherry as they trotted toward their irate coach. “I should have warned you sooner.
Sherry didn't have a chance to respond.
“Damn it, Sherry,” Pat barked before the players even had a chance to reach the bench. “You know she likes to cut left. You should have been ready for that.”
“I know, Coach,” Sherry responded upset with herself for not being prepared for the move. Breathing heavily, she accepted a towel and cup of Gatorade when they were offered by one of the teenage girls hired to keep the bench area organized during home games.
“This is bullshit,” Pat continued her tirade. “No way should this game be this close. Dimchek, Wendy, Amie, Terry, you're going in,” she told the players then turned to Kelley. “I'm going in, too. I want you to start substituting players every time play is stopped. If Seattle wants to run, we'll make them run,” she declared turning her focus back to the players. “Wendy, you take the point. And, let's start rebounding. They're killing us on the boards. Questions?” She paused a moment. “Okay, let's go,” she snapped then trotted with the other players to the scorers' table to report.
4 th Quarter - Less than one minute remaining – Seattle 87 – Cougars 84
Pete, at the point guard position, stood just shy of the mid-court line dribbling the ball in place. Her defender was on the opposite side of mid-court waiting for her to make her move. Pete glanced over her defender's shoulder.
Tonie and Terry were positioned on the right side of the key, Tonie closest to the basket. Sherry was running through the key from the right, her defender trailing behind her. Pat, from the left side of the key, ran a crossing pattern to Sherry
Pete made her move. Taking two quick steps to her left, she abruptly stopped then spun three hundred and sixty degrees before running flat out down the court leaving her defender racing to catch up.
Pat moved into the key just as Sherry ran out of it and slipped into the path of Sherry's defender.
Her guard momentarily occupied with diverting around Pat, Sherry looked toward Pete. She wasn't surprised to see the ball already in route to her. Catching the pass, she pushed her body up from the court. Spinning in the air, she launched the ball toward the basket.
The ball hit the rim then bounced against the backboard to fall back onto the rim and ricochet away from the basket.
Terry jumped up, her hands stretched up over her defender's head. As soon as the ball touched her fingers, she tipped it back upward. Attempting to knock the ball away, her defender smacked her arm. The officials blew their whistles as the ball dropped through the net. Knowing she had one shot coming, she walked to the free throw line.
Glancing at the game clock, Pat trotted over to join Terry. She signaled the other Cougars on the court to join them. “Listen up,” she directed her team. “If Terry misses, we have to get the rebound. Got it,” she paused as the players nodded.
“Break it up,” one of the officials warned Pat and the others.
When the others moved away to take their positions along the key, Pat turned to Terry. “Think you can bounce it off the front of the rim,” she asked keeping her voice low.
“Think you can get the rebound if I do?” Terry inquired just as quietly.
“It's worth a shot.”
“Positions,” the official called then handed Terry the ball as Pat moved off to the side of the key.
Terry stood at the free throw line eyeing the basket. She took a deep breath and released it. Then she lifted the ball up in front of her. Taking careful aim, she let the ball go.
Holding her breath, Pat watched the ball arc toward the basket. Hitting the front of the rim, it bounced back toward the shooter and well out of the reach of the leaping players along either side of the key. Timing her jump perfectly, she plucked the ball out of the air and sent it back toward the hoop before her feet returned to the floor.
The ball tapped the backboard then dropped through the net.
“The Cougars win,” Chad, the game announcer, shouted over the buzzer marking the end of time. “Unbelievable!”
“What a play,” Nancy agreed excitedly.
“What a disappointment for Seattle. I don't blame the Seafarers for being upset by the final score.”
“No, they have every right to be. They controlled this game from beginning to end… but came up just short on the scoreboard. It is a heartbreaker for them.”
Pat trotted into the locker room behind her players and closed the door to prevent the Seattle players from looking into the room on their way to the visitors' locker room further down the corridor. “Alright, quiet down,” she shouted over the celebratory whoops and yells. “Quiet down,” she repeated, her tone louder and more demanding. She stood at the front of the room impatiently waiting for the players to comply.
Carrying two bottles of ice cold water, Sherry moved through the boisterous players. “Come on, quiet down,” she admonished the players. “Coach is waiting.”
Kelley was also moving about the room encouraging an end to the celebration.
“Hey, that was a nice shot, Coach,” Val called from her seat. “Did you and Terry plan it?”
Pat smiled but didn't answer. “Thanks,” she said after Sherry reached the front of the room and passed her a bottle of water. She uncapped the bottle and took a long drink. “Enough!” she barked at her players, many rookies were still ignoring her calls for silence. “You have absolutely no right to be celebrating like this. We played a crappy game. It was only because of a lucky bounce at the end that we won. So, shut up and sit down!”
“Jeez,” Jackson muttered under her breath taking a seat in a chair near the back. “Can't even celebrate a win around here.”
“Do you want to share your comments with the rest of the team, Jackson?” Kelley asked.
Annoyed at having been overheard by the assistant coach, Jackson mumbled, “No, Coach.”
“We won… barely,” Pat continued. “But we didn't do a lot right tonight… especially, rebounding. What were the final stats, Kelley?”
Standing at the side of the room, the assistant coach flipped through the pages in her hand. “Seattle out rebounded us on both the offensive and defensive boards by a margin of three to one.”
“That's unacceptable!” Pat snapped. “Be prepared to improve on that by Friday when we play Denver. And free throws— what's the bad news?” she asked her assistant.
“Team averaged forty three percent,” Kelley informed the head coach.
“I want everyone here two hours early tomorrow,” Pat growled. “You'll each shoot one hundred free throws and we'll keep track of how you do. I strongly suggest your numbers come up… way up.” Her eyes scanned through the looks directed at her. “Still feel like celebrating?” she asked sardonically. “Okay, hit the showers. Go home and get some sleep. And don't be late in the morning,” she warned.
Leaving the now subdued players in the locker room, Pat led her assistants through the doorway to their offices.
“Did you have to make it two hours?” Sherry asked maneuvering between the desks on their way to Pat's private office.
Pat's progress abruptly stopped and she spun about to face her assistant. “Maybe if you'd paid better attention while watching the tapes you wouldn't have let Davess beat you to the basket all night,” she said harshly. “You should have known she likes to cut to her left.”
Sherry's eyes widened as she absorbed Pat's anger. “Pat, I—”
“No… no excuses. I expect better from you. You watched the films… You should have known what her tendencies were. I shouldn't have to spell every little thing out for you. Davess scored twenty seven tonight—that's a record for her—and most of those were made after she left you in her dust.”
Realizing the coach's outburst could be heard by the players in the locker room, Kelley quickly moved back to the open office doorway. Reaching for the door, she spotted Jackson standing a few feet from the doorway smiling. Scowling, she slammed the door shut startling both Pat and Sherry.
Suddenly exhausted by the emotions of the last several minutes, Pat's shoulders slumped. “Shit,” she mumbled seeing the distraught look on her lover's face. “I'm sorry, honey,” she whispered, her arms hesitantly reaching for Sherry then dropping to her sides. “I'm so sorry.”
Sherry fought back the tears welling in her eyes. “I understand you're upset about tonight,” she started in a shaky voice, “but...”
Her back against the door, Kelley awkwardly watched the distressing exchange. “Maybe you should, um, take this into your office, Pat,” she said uncomfortably.
Pat glanced at her assistant then gazed sadly at her distressed lover. “Come on,” she said quietly.
Kelley waited until the women disappeared into Pat's office before she pushed off the door. Walking to her desk, she unlocked a drawer to retrieve her purse and car keys. Then she walked to the door leading directly out to the corridor and left.
Pat and Sherry sat side-by-side in the chairs in front of Pat's desk. While Sherry was slumped against the back of her chair, Pat was leaning forward, bent over at the waist with her head held in her hands.
“Maybe, we took on too much,” Pat moaned, breaking the deafening silence after several minutes. “I don't want this to be happening.”
Sherry leaned forward placing a calming hand on her lover's thigh. “Honey, what did happen? I know you were upset about the way the game went tonight… I've seen you upset before but you've never reacted like that. All the times you got mad at my mistakes last year… you never yelled at me like that.”
Lifting her head, Pat tilted it toward Sherry. “I don't know where that came from,” she said tearfully.
“Are you still upset about the way I acted when we were watching the tapes? I thought we settled that.”
“We did. And, no, I'm not upset… at least, I didn't think I was.”
Sherry chewed on her lower lip while she gave her lover time to regain her composure. “Honey, I think you might be trying just a little too hard to make sure everything goes right this season.” She stood and walked around Pat's desk to the window sill where a box of tissues sat. “Things didn't go as you were hoping tonight,” she continued after returning to her chair and passing the tissues to Pat. “But it is only our first game… and it's pre-season, so even if we lost, it's not going to keep us from repeating. You need to take it down a step or two.”
Pat sniffled then blew her nose. “I just wanted us to make a statement tonight.”
Sherry pursed her lips together into a sad smile. “Honey, the rest of the league knows we're going to defend our championship no matter what it takes… I don't think you need to prove it to them every single game. And it's not going to do any good to come unglued at every little thing… the team is going to get tired of that and you need them on your side.”
“My head hurts,” Pat declared.
Sherry laughed. “I don't doubt that. Mine hurts, too.”
“Tone it down, huh?”
Sherry nodded. “Yeah. Be a coach… not a tyrant.”
“Is that what I've become?” Pat asked stunned by the bluntness of the comment.
“You're on your way.”
“I'm a jerk.”
“No, you're not. You're just trying way too hard. And, honey, you're wearing me out.”
Wrapping her arms around Pat and pulling her close, Sherry kissed her on the cheek. “Always,” she told her. “But, sweetie, this is twice in less than a week… I really think we need to come to terms with this player/coach stuff or this season is going to be very long and very miserable.”
Pat sighed. “You're right… how do we do that?”
“You're the head coach, figure it out,” Sherry said standing and pulling Pat up with her. “'Cause if you don't, I'm renting a motel room for the rest of the season.”
“You'd leave me alone in our big house?”
“Yep. My nerves can't take this.”
“I hear ya.” Pat rubbed her eyes, sore and red from the outflow of the night's emotion. “Let's go home.”
“I'm all for that. Why don't you go wash your face… you'll feel better. I'll make a walk through the locker room.”
“You sure you want to do that?” Pat asked anxiously. “They probably heard me screaming at you.”
“Anyone left in the arena heard you.”
“There isn't anything we can do about it now. Go on and freshen up,” Sherry said nudging Pat toward the bathroom at the side of her office. “I'll meet you at the car.”
Sherry was glad to find the locker room empty. After verifying that no one was lingering in the shower room, she flipped off the lights and exited into the corridor.
“Good game, Coach.”
Sherry smiled at one of the security team members. “Thanks, Greg,” she told him. “We got lucky at the end.”
“No problem with a little luck,” he said cheerfully. “Everyone gone?”
“The locker room is empty. Coach Calvin is still in her office; you might want to give her a few minutes before you lock everything up.”
“Good to know.”
After bidding the security guard good night, Sherry walked down the long corridor to the exit at the back of the building. She was surprised to find the visitor's locker room already dark and hoped, shamefully, that Kelley had performed the after game pleasantries with the Seattle coaches. “We definitely have to get our act together,” she told herself. Pushing the exit door open, she was hit by a blast of cool night air and shivered.
“You should have a jacket.”
Sherry's head jerked around at the sound of the voice.
“I've got a spare,” Jackson offered with a grinned.
“No, thanks,” Sherry told the rookie before starting across the parking lot to where the Subaru was parked. Perturbed when Jackson fell into step beside her, she asked, “What are you doing?”
“Walking you to your car; I'm surprised you're alone,” Jackson said in a mildly critical tone.
Sherry froze. “It's been a long day, Jackson, and a not very pleasant evening. If you're trying to say something, spit out because I am not in the mood for your games.”
Jackson demeanor grew serious. “No games,” she said with a shake of her head. “I'm just wondering why you let her treat you the way she does.”
“You're crossing a line, Jackson,” Sherry warned.
“You deserve better.”
“Back off! And stay the hell out of my business!” Sherry snarled.
“Hey, is everything okay over there?”
Sherry sucked in a breath of cold air to calm herself. “Everything is fine, Greg,” she called to the security guard at the exit door. “Is Coach Calvin still in her office?”
“She's on her way out now,” Greg called back.
“Thank you.” Sherry forced herself to look at the arrogant player standing well within her comfort zone. “Go home. I won't warn you again about this crap. Next time you cross that line, I'm going straight to Mac.”
Jackson smirked. “'Night, Coach,” she said then continued across the parking lot. “Nice car, by the way,” she called back as she walked past the Subaru.
“Can this night get any worse?”
“Did you say something?”
Sherry spun around to find Pat a few feet away.
“Was that Jackson?” Pat asked reaching for Sherry's offered hand. “Hey, you're shaking. Are you okay?”
“I'm fine. Yes, it was Jackson. She makes me so damn mad.”
“Now what did she do?”“Let's get to the car… I'll tell you on the way home.”
To Be Continued...
Return to the Academy