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 4 th Quarter – Cougars 62 – Raiders 59
Sherry and Pete had Boston's Stephens pinned against the court's sideline just shy of mid-court.
“Back off,” Stephens barked finding she had no way to move out of the trap.
“No chance,” Pete told the frustrated player.
Stephens twisted to her right, her elbows thrown out from her body. Then she twisted back to her left catching Sherry in her ribs.
Standing just a few feet from the trio, one official saw the foul and blew his whistle, “Foul, number fourteen. Elbowing. Cougar ball at the sideline.”
“Dammit,” Stephens screamed at the referee, “they're all over me.”
“Tone it down or I'll add a technical,” the referee told the irate player.
Sherry picked up the ball after Stephens dropped it, tossed it to the official then stepped over the sideline to inbound the ball.
Pete waited on the court side of the line for play to resume. She looked at Sherry and grinned. “She's getting feisty,” she gleefully told her teammate.
Sherry rubbed her side. “Stop antagonizing her, will ya? We don't need you getting thrown out for instigating a fight.” She glanced at the game clock. “Dang am I glad we don't have much more of this game; my legs are dead.”
“Right there with you.”
The whistle blew and the official handed Sherry the ball. She took note of where the other players were on the court then flipped the ball to Pete. “Val's not being guarded too closely,” she said running past Pete to take up a position closer to the key.
Pete pivoted then began to dribble toward the Cougar basket. Stacy and Terry were trying to work free from their guards at the bottom of the key. Val was running a crossing pattern near the top of the key and Sherry was moving to the right near the three point arc.
Aware that her guard was trailing a few steps behind her, Val sped up. She reached the top of the key at the same time the pass from Pete arrived. Turning to the basket, she squared her shoulders and rose into the air for a jump shot.
A whistle blew stopping play after the ball dropped through the basket. “Time out, Boston, twenty seconds,” an official announced.
The Cougars ran to their bench and waiting coach.
“You're doing great,” Pat greeted her players. “Pete, Sherry, you're out… Wendy and Amie are going in for you,” she said of the two players standing at the scorers' table.
“Stephens is getting really frustrated, Coach,” Pete said. “You better warn them.”
“Doesn't help the way you're mouthing off to her,” Pat scolded the player then focused on Wendy and Amie who had rejoined the huddle. “Keep up the pressure on Stephens,” she told the two guards… but stay away from her elbows.” She looked to another player, “Stacy, remember your zone on defense.”
“Got it, Coach.”
The buzzer sounded alerting the teams that the time out was ending.
“Rebound,” Pat reminded the five players trotting back onto the court.
“The press is working well,” Sherry said dropping onto the bench next to the head coach.
“How's your head?”
“Fine. Wish I could say the same for my legs,” Sherry replied rubbing her tired muscles.
“I want you and Pete to sit the rest of the game unless we start to lose this lead.”
“I can go back in, Coach,” Pete leaned over Sherry to tell Pat.
“I know you can. But I need you two fresh for New York so, if I can rest you, I will.”
Clipboard in hand, Kelley walked along the front of the bench and took the empty seat on the other side of Pat. “Stephens attempted fourteen shots in the first half and made twelve of them,” she read the stats off her clipboard. “She's attempted nine in this half and only made four. The press is definitely having an effect on her.”
“It's about time,” Pat replied. “I'm going in for Val,” she told her assistant. “If we hold the lead, leave Sherry and Pete on the bench. If they start to catch up, put them back in.” She looked down the bench to the other players. “Latesha, Jade, let's go,” she called to the rested players then stood and joined them to report to the scorers' table.
Closely guarded by Wendy and Amie, Stephens dribbled up court. Having picked up her fourth foul moments before, the Boston point guard's aggravation level had risen dramatically. They crossed mid-court.
Pat was playing zone at the top of the key with Latesha and Jade working the zone under the basket. She focused on Stephens' eyes trying to get a read on her intentions.
Stephens cut to the right forcing Amie to back off a step.
Wendy shifted to prevent the Boston guard from moving to the left and to allow Amie to regain her position.
Stephens took a quick stutter step forward then stopped.
Wendy and Amie shadowed her perfectly.
Stephens beckoned to a teammate to move toward her then back pedaled a couple of steps before charging forward again. The move allowed her just enough freedom to fire a pass to her approaching teammate.
Reaching out a long arm, Pat snatched the ball out of the air. She was running for the opposite end of the court before the Boston players could react. Nearing the arc and having no close pursuers, Pat pulled up and executed a jump shot adding three points to the Cougar's lead.
A Boston player retrieved the ball and in-bounded it to Stephens.
Wendy immediately started to press the Boston guard but Amie was slow to join her.
Pat ran over to assist Wendy.
Stephens attempted a cut to the left.
Pat stood her ground.
Stephens dribbled to the right.
Wendy swiped at the ball but missed.
“Dammit, come help me,” Stephens yelled to her teammates trotting across mid-court to take positions at the opposite end of the court and leaving her to battle the double team alone. Spinning to her left, she dribbled between her legs then immediately cut to her right.
Wendy took another swipe at the ball and managed to knock it away from the Boston player's control.
Pat gathered in the loose ball, spun around and buried another three pointer.
Stephens shoved Wendy. “Get off me,” she screamed.
Wendy quickly backed away from her angry opponent.
A whistle blew. “Foul, number fourteen.”
“Are you crazy?” Stephens yelled running toward the referee. Before she could reach the official, one of her teammates wrapped her arms around Stephens and pushed her toward their bench. “Let me go,” she yelled struggling to free herself. “I've had it with them on my ass.”
Another whistle blew. “Timeout Boston.”
“I never touched her, Coach,” Wendy defended as they trotted toward their bench.
“I know,” Pat told the concerned player. “She's just frustrated.”
Wendy looked to the opposite bench where the Boston coach was trying to get Stephens under control. “Can't say I blame her… we're beating her on the court and her coach is chewing her ass.”
Pat nodded then told her assistant, “Kelley, let's switch out.”
Kelley nodded and looked at her clipboard. “Dimchek, Val, Terry… go report.”
Pat motioned for Wendy and Amie to come close. “Listen, Stephens has about had it. Play her close but if you sense she may retaliate, back off. Okay?” The guards nodded.
“You just put us up by three baskets,” Kelley told Pat. “It's going to be hard for them to come back in the time remaining. Maybe we should drop the press.”
Pat glanced up at the clock. “There's still two minutes left to play… that's more than enough time for Stephens to pump in three pointers if we back off her.” As the buzzer sounded the end of the timeout, Pat looked to the players rotating into the game. “When we have the ball, burn the clock,” she instructed before sending them out onto the court.
Amie trotted over to stand beside Wendy at the free throw line. “Put these in, we need the points,” she told her teammate.
“If I do, are you going to keep up with me on Stephens?”
“Damn, I'm trying but I'm whipped.”
“So are the rest of us. I need your help with her.”
“You've got it,” Amie assured her teammate then moved over to stand beside Dimchek at the side of the key. “If she misses,” she told the rookie, “you have a good shot at the rebound… your player has been slow off the line all night.”
Dimchek nodded then got ready for Wendy's first attempt.
Amie backpedaled to mid-court where Stephens was positioned in case one of her teammates managed to control a rebound and she could start a fast break to the other end of the court.
“Back off,” Stephens warned Wendy even though she was several feet away from her.
“What are you so pissed about?” Amie asked the Boston player.
“You're playing dirty.”
Amie grinned. “First time I've heard a full court press called that,” she said casually.
“I call it bullshit.”
Amie shrugged watching Wendy's first attempt hit the back of the rim then drop through the basket.
“Is this how you jerks plan to play this season? Cheating the whole way.”
Amie watched the official hand Wendy the ball for her second shot. “Just because you can't break a press doesn't mean we're cheating,” she told Stephens after Wendy's second attempt dropped through the basket. “You're just too used to being a star,” she added mockingly.
“Jerk,” Stephens spat out then charged toward the end line to receive the inbound pass from a teammate then spun around and started up court.
Amie and Wendy quickly surrounded her.
Stephens feigned a move to the right but Wendy refused to bite on the fake. The Boston guard then attempted to dribble to the left but Amie blocked her.
“Here,” a Boston player yelled to Stephens. “Give me the ball.”
Stephens looked for her teammate and saw her just a few feet away; but she could not get a clean pass off. “Time,” she called to the officials not wanting to risk another turnover.
A whistle blew.
Amie immediately backed away from the Boston player, turned and trotted to the bench.
Also moving toward the bench, Wendy stumbled when the toe of her shoe stuck into the floor. Off balance, she reached out to stop her fall.
Feeling a hand grab her shoulder, Stephens spun around slapping the hand away.
Wendy stumbled backward.
Stephens pushed the off balance Cougar player.
Attempting to regain her footing, Wendy was unprepared for the shove that twisted her around. She fell to the floor.
“Foul, number fourteen.”
“Are you kidding me?” Stephens barked. “She hit me first.”
“She stumbled,” an official harshly responded to Stephens. “She reached out to steady herself… she wasn't doing anything to you.”
Wendy remained on the floor, her face contorted in pain and her hands wrapped around her knee.
Pat and Lizzie ran onto the court.
“What's wrong?” Pat demanded dropping down to kneel beside her player.
“It's my knee,” Wendy managed to get out between gritted teeth.
“Twisted?” Lizzie asked.
“I felt something pop.”
“Shit,” Pat said slamming her palm down on the court's floor.
Sherry looked out the window as their chartered plane rolled down the runway gathering speed for takeoff. “Damn, damn, damn,” she muttered.
Seated in the adjoining seat, Pat was writing in a notebook. “What's wrong?” she asked not looking up from her work.
Sherry pulled the shade down over the window then shifted to face the head coach. “Is it just me or does it seem there's a dark cloud is hanging over us this year?”
“Not a dark cloud,” Pat replied. “Just an hot shot player who couldn't deal with her game being shut down.”
“What did Ridock say to you?” Sherry asked of the Boston coach and the exchange the coaches had after the game.
“She apologized for Stephens being a jackass but excused it as being just frustration at the end of a tough game for her.”
“What did you say to that?”
“I told her that wasn't much of a reason for one of my players being in the emergency room.” Pat flipped through the pages to find a blank one. “And I told her she better get used to being pressed because, now that it's known she can't deal with it, the whole league will be pressing her ass.”
Sherry smirked. “How did she take that?” she asked.
Pat scribbled two names on the blank sheet then stared at them. “She wasn't too happy,” she said looking up at Sherry and smiling. “But I don't care… she's a lazy coach. She's depended too long on Stephens carrying her team. If I had been her tonight, I would have taken Stephens out in the first quarter.”
“Would have destroyed our game plan and we would have had to adjusted. But Stephens scores more than the rest of her team combined… so Ridock didn't have the guts to do it.”
“Ah.” Sherry rubbed her eyes.
“Try to get some sleep.”
“Can't… I keep thinking about Wendy. If it is her ACL, what are we going to do?”
Pat looked down at the notebook in her lap. She circled one of the names written on the page moments before. “What do you think?”
Sherry looked at the page, the names, and noted the one circled. “I don't see any other choice… we have to activate her.”
“Think Kelley will agree?” Pat had sent her other assistant coach with Lizzie to accompany Wendy to the hospital. If possible, the three would meet up with the team for the New York game.
“Okay… then it's decided.” Pat glanced up when she heard a ding and saw that the pilot had turned off the seatbelt sign. She closed her notebook then returned it to her carryon bag under the seat in front of her. “I'll be right back,” she told Sherry standing up.
Sherry leaned her seat back and closed her eyes as Pat made her way to a player sitting several rows behind them.
Pat found Hudson sitting alone in the last row of seats reading a book. “Mind if I sit?” she asked smiling.
Hudson shook her head. “Of course not, Coach.”
Pat settled on the empty seat beside the player. “Interesting?” she asked pointed at the paperback now closed and resting on the rookie's leg.
Hudson smiled shyly. “Romance novel.”
Pat grinned. “There's nothing wrong with a good romance.”
“How's Wendy?” Hudson asked concerned about her teammate.
Pat frowned. “Still waiting for a call… looks like her ACL.”
“Yeah.” Pat squirmed about for a more comfortable position. “I hate airline seats… no leg room.”
Hudson nodded but remained silent sensing her coach had something more important than leg room on her mind.
“You're showing a good attitude in practice,” Pat started.
“I'm trying hard, Coach,” Hudson replied guardedly.
“How do you think you're doing?”
“It's a big change from college… a lot to learn.”
“Doesn't answer my question.”
“I think I'm doing good, Coach,” Hudson ventured cautiously.
“I think so, too.” Pat smiled at the look of relief on the rookie's face. “Think you're ready to take on games?”
“I'm ready, Coach,” Hudson replied confidently.
“Good Even if it's not Wendy's ACL, she probably won't be ready to play fulltime for weeks and I'm already short on healthy guards. You're activated as of now,” Pat informed the rookie.
“You're sure you're up for it?”
“You bet I am, Coach,” Hudson enthusiastically replied.
Pat patted the rookie on the knee then stood and started back to her seat at the front of the plane.
“I hope,” Hudson murmured after her coach left.
“How about grabbing some dinner when we get to New York?”
Sherry was startled out of her thoughts by the question. “What?” she stammered opening her eyes to find Jackson sitting in Pat's place.
“Dinner… you know, eat food,” the rookie over simplified for the coach.
Annoyed by the rookie's impudence, Sherry glared at her. “Go back to your seat.”
“Ah, come on. What's the problem with us having dinner?”
Sherry blew out an exasperated breath. “The team will have dinner together at the hotel… together .”
“Okay… then a walk afterward?”
Sherry's eyes narrowed as she stared at the annoying player. “Afterward, we have curfew. You did read the team rules didn't you… players are restricted to their rooms on road trips unless there is a team activity.”
Jackson leaned the seat back and relaxed against it. “Ah, I'm just suggesting a nice leisurely walk around the block,” she smirked, “not going to some nightclub to dance the nasty.”
“Go back to your seat, Jackson,” Sherry demanded, “before Coach hears you saying this crap.”
“Too late for that,” Pat snarled. She was standing in the aisle towering over the reclined rookie. “Get your ass back to your seat,” she ordered.
Jackson shrugged. “You're loss,” she told Sherry before returning the seat to its upright position and standing. She eased past her irate coach then walked nonchalantly back to her seat.
“You trying to get Coach to beat the snot out of you?” Jade asked when Jackson reclaimed the seat beside her.
“Just trying to be friendly,” Jackson replied off-handedly.
“You're a dope.”
To Be Continued...
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