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
The morning after the Boston game, the Cougars were distractedly working through drills in the New York arena.
“Hudson, keep moving,” Sherry instructed the rookie who had stopped after running a crossing pattern through the key. “You're too easy to guard if you're standing still.”
“Got it, Coach,” Hudson responded before crossing back through the key only to get jammed up with two of her teammates.
Sherry blew her whistle. “Come on, ladies,” she said in exasperation. “You're acting like you don't have a clue. Hudson, look around the court before you try to shift. It doesn't do us any good if we take each other out of the play.”
“Sorry, Coach,” Hudson said gloomily.
“Same for you two,” Sherry directed her comments at Sara and Dimchek. “Where are you supposed to be? I'm pretty sure it's not on the same piece of floor.”
“You're right, Coach,” Sara admitted.
“Let's take a few minutes to re-group,” Sherry said then started for the end of the arena where Pat was leaning against the wall talking on her cell phone.
Pete trotted up to join Sherry. “It's hard to concentrate wondering what Coach is being told,” she needlessly tried to explain her teammates' lack of focus.
“I know,” Sherry acknowledged. “But we only have the court for another hour… we need to get our heads on straight if we want to win tonight.
“It would be a lot easier if we knew how Wendy was.”
“Looks like we're about to find that out,” Sherry said seeing Pat's hand drop from her ear as she turned off her cell.
Without comment, Pete reversed her steps to give the coaches some privacy.
“Was that Kelley?” Sherry asked Pat who was bent down tucking her phone back into her bag.
“Yeah,” Pat replied after straightening back up. “MRI confirmed it… it's the ACL.”
“You can say that again.”
“How is she doing?”
“That's to be expected.”
“Kelley said she's being a trooper… wants to rejoin the team ASAP.”
“Guess she'll have to wait until we get back home for that.”
Pat slumped back against the wall. “They're going to rent a car and make the drive here; Kelley figures they should be here by this afternoon.”
“Is that a good idea?”
Pat shrugged. “Wendy wants to get back with the team. What am I going to tell her… no? And we need Kelley and Lizzie here.”
Sherry sighed. “I guess if I was in her shoes, I'd want the same.”
“Kelley promised to take it easy on the drive.”
“Are they leaving right away?”
Pat shook her head. “They're waiting until Lizzie can make arrangements for Wendy to see our doctors when we get home and to get her surgery scheduled.”
“You okay?” Sherry asked her obviously troubled lover.
Pat stared down at the floor. “I just know what she has to look forward to… it's a rough road.” She glanced up to see that the players were quietly sitting together looking at them apprehensively. “We better let them in on the news,” she nodded toward the team.
“Tonight's game is going to be a disaster if we can't get them to focus,” Sherry said looking over her shoulder at the concerned players.
Pat nodded then pushed off the wall. “They'll focus,” she said motioning Sherry to join her in walking over to their anxious players. “Or Wendy will give them shit tonight,” she added with a grin.
Sitting at a table in the hotel's café with her eyes focused on the pages of notes in her hand, Sherry reached for the coffee cup the waitress had refilled moments before.
“Watch out,” the warning interrupted her thoughts, “you don't want to spill that.”
Sherry, hand frozen in mid-air, looked up and frowned. “Aren't you supposed to be in your room?” she asked Jackson standing on the opposite side of the small table.
“I guess I could ask you the same thing,” Jackson said pulling a chair out from the table. “Unless coaches don't have to follow the curfew.”
“Jackson, I'm busy,” Sherry brusquely told the rookie. “You're breaking team rules, I strongly suggest you go back to your room until it's time for the team to have dinner.”
The rookie smiled and sat down. “Where's Coach?” she asked nonchalantly. “Not that I'm complaining… it's nice to have you to myself.”
The waitress walked over to the table. “May I get you something?” she asked Jackson.
“No,” Sherry cut in. “She won't be staying,” she tersely informed the waitress who promptly backtracked.
“I think you scared her,” Jackson said smirking.
“Jackson, get back to your room… now!”
“A little touchy, aren't we,” Jackson said as she slowly stood. She took a couple of steps toward the café's entrance, stopped for a moment, then returned. Placing her hands palms down on the table, she leaned over toward her glaring coach. “I don't know why you've got such a problem with me,” she said innocently. “I'm just trying to be friendly.” She winked then straightened.
“Arrrggghhhh,” Sherry groaned as the rookie walked away.
Reaching the hotel's lobby, the elevator doors opened. Pat started to exit then abruptly stopped. “What are you doing here?” she asked Jackson who was stepping into the elevator.
“Just stretching my legs, Coach,” the rookie responded amiably. “Going back up to my room now.”
Pat frowned. “You were told—”
Jackson raised her hands, palms toward her coach. “I know… stay in my room.” She grinned. “I'm busted,” she acknowledged dropping her hands. “But, you know, those rooms don't allow much space for legs as long as mine. You and Gallagher must have the same problem since it appears you're breaking the rules, too,” she added.
“I know, it's none of my business,” the rookie said offhandedly.
“Get back to your room.”
“That's where I'm headed, Coach. But, ah… you're blocking the doors,” Jackson said indicating Pat's position half in and half out of the elevator.
Pat backed out of the elevator.
“Later, Coach,” Jackson called out as the doors closed.
Pat was about to turn around when the doors opened to reveal a smiling Jackson.
“I forgot to tell you,” Jackson said, “I'm starting to break through Gallagher's shell… won't be long until we're best buds again.”
The elevator doors closed before an astounded Pat could respond. Hands flexing in and out of fists, she watched the lights on the panel flash on, then off, identifying each passing floor as it rose. When it stopped on the fifteenth floor where the team's rooms were located, she spun about and headed for the café.
Sherry looked up from her reading when Pat dropped heavily into the chair opposite her.
“I need a drink,” Pat groaned.
“Did Kelley have bad news?” Sherry asked.
“What did Kelley say?”
“Oh… no, everything is okay with them. She figures they'll be here about the time we get the team together for dinner.”
Sherry gathered up her pages of notes. “That's good… it should help everyone's mood,” she said placing the notes neatly into a folder. “Why the bummed expression?”
“I just ran into Jackson.”
“Yeah, she showed up in here.”
“Why? What did she want?”
“Who knows with her?”
Pat reached across the table for Sherry's coffee cup. “Mind if I…?” she asked picking the cup up. She raised it to her lips after Sherry shook her head. “Are you sure you don't have a history with Jackson?” she asked after draining the cup and placing it back on the table.
Sherry looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“I just find her obsession with you odd… especially if there's nothing behind it.”
“What the hell are you saying?”
Pat blew out an exasperated breath. “Look, don't get mad, I'm not accusing you of anything… it's just that she says the oddest things.”
“She told me she was breaking through your shell and you'd be best buds soon… again .”
“Again? What the hell does she mean again ?”
“Would you ladies like me to bring you anything?” The waitress had walked up to the table.
“No, thank you,” Sherry replied with a tired smile. “We have to get going.”
“Have a good afternoon,” the waitress said placing Sherry's bill on the table.
“Honestly, honey,” Sherry said after the waitress left, “I don't have a clue with Jackson. I don't remember ever meeting her before she showed up in camp.”
Pat slid the bill over to her side of the table and signed it without looking at the charges. “She definitely thinks there's something between the two of you,” she commented standing up.
“In her dreams,” Sherry exclaimed in disgust. “Whatever it is, it's pretty one-sided cuz I don't want anything to do with her outside of the team.” She pushed her chair back from the table and stood. “And, to be honest, I really don't want that part of her either,” she said picking up her folder. “We better make sure they have the banquet room ready for us before we gather up the troops.”
Lost in thought, Pat trailed behind Sherry as they walked out of the café and across the lobby to the hotel's restaurant.
Amie was the first to notice the door to the banquet room opening. “They're here,” she exclaimed excitedly and jumped up. Joined by many of her teammates, she rushed toward the trio entering the room.
“Slow down, everybody,” Lizzie warned the approaching mob. “She's injured, remember.”
Amie stepped forward of the others. “How are you doing?” she asked Wendy.
“Okay, I guess,” the injured player replied struggling with the crutches she was now required to use, her injured knee encased in a heavy brace. “These things are a pain in the ass,” she grumbled struggling to the nearest chair. She was immediately assisted by her teammates. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of questions and encouragements, she could do little but sit and smile.
“Come on, ladies,” Pat called out after several minutes, “back to your dinners.” Then she walked over to kneel beside Wendy. “I'm sorry,” she said.
“I'm going to play again, Coach. Just like you… I'm going to come back from this.”
Pat smiled. “You will,” she agreed. “But there's going to be a long, tough road between now and then. I want you to know, I'm here for you. Even if all you want to do is talk… or scream… or hit something, I'm here.”
Wendy nodded. “Thanks, Coach,” she murmured.
“I'll bet you're hungry,” Pete said placing a heaping plate of food on the table in front of Wendy.
Wendy looked up gratefully at her teammate. “Thanks, Pete.”
Pete patted her on the shoulder then returned to her own plate.
Pat stood up to address the team. “Okay, now that we're all together again… let's talk about tonight's game. I'm not expecting us to have too much trouble with New York,” she began. “Their shooting is uneven and their rebounding isn't much better.”
“What do you expect from a team tagged with the name New York Bankers?” Jade asked grinning.
Pat waited for the laughter to fade. “Alright, let's keep that to ourselves tonight. I want everyone to focus on our game… take your shot if it's available and box out on the boards. And, please, no more injuries,” she implored.
“Got it, Coach,” several players responded.
“Hey, Coach,” Jackson called out. “With Wendy out for the season, aren't you going to have to activate one of us reserves?” she asked smugly.
“Yep, I am,” Pat told the rookie whose face reflected an air of arrogance that her own name was about to be announced. “In fact, I activated Hudson this morning,” she said.
While the rest of the team shouted words of congratulations to the rookie guard, the look on Jackson 's face quickly morphed from overconfident to infuriated.
“Listen up,” Pat called out to quiet the players. “Finish your dinners… the bus will be here to pick us up in an hour. Make sure you haven't left anything in your rooms because we won't be coming back; we're going straight from the game to the airport.” Pat smiled at the grousing. “I know, it's not how I would have scheduled it but that's the way it is so stop complaining. Any questions?” Receiving none, she returned to her chair.
Sitting on the bench watching Pat run the team through pre-game shooting drills, Kelley stared at Sherry as if she had just grown a third head. “Are you kidding me?” she blurted out, having to raise her voice to be heard over the crowd noise in the arena.
Sherry shook her head. She had just filled Kelley in on Jackson's latest foolishness.
“What is it about you?”
“Pat asked me the same thing. She thinks there has to be some history between Jackson and me… but I cannot come up with anything. And, believe me, I've tried.”
“Well, you're pretty close in age… maybe you ran across her in college?” Kelley offered.
Sherry shook her head. “We went to different schools… and played in different conferences.”
“What about tournaments?”
Another shake of the head. “We didn't play in too many… we weren't good enough to be asked. And I don't remember ever playing any games against her school.”
“Weird,” Kelley muttered.
The arena buzzer blasted to alert the teams that it was almost time for player introductions in anticipation of tip-off.
“Super weird,” Sherry agreed standing as the color guard marched to the center of the court.
Pre Season Game 4 th Quarter – Cougars 73 – Bankers 41
Amie dribbled up the floor, stopping at mid-court to evaluate her options. Her defender moved to stand between her and the key, arms held out limply from her sides.
It was obvious to everyone in the building that the Bankers were tired and ready for the night to come to an end.
Hudson jockeyed for position at the left side of the court, her defender playing her loosely. Sara and Jade were working the bottom of the key, switching continually to confuse their defenders. Terry was moving around at the top of the key, her defender following a step behind.
Amie moved forward a few steps then fired a bounce pass to Terry.
Terry caught the ball then immediately flipped it to Hudson.
Jade stepped up to provide a pick against Hudson's defender.
Dribbling toward the basket, Hudson ran her defender into Jade's pick. She continued to the end of the key to lay the ball up against the backboard. It dropped cleanly through the net.
Whistles blew as the Bankers' coach called for a time out.
Pat stood and looked down her bench then she glanced at the game clock.
Kelley stood and moved to stand beside the head coach. “Do you to substitute for Amie and Hudson?”
“No. Hudson needs the game time. And there's no reason to put Pete or Sherry in just to chance them getting hurt with only have a few minutes to play. Val, Latesha, Ashley,” she called to the players, “report.” She watched the players run past then turned to the others. “Good game,” she told Sara, Jade, and Terry as they took seats on the bench. “Jade, nice play. Hudson , way to use the pick.” The three substitutes rejoined the huddle. “Okay, let's get this game over with. If they make a run, let them… they have no chance of closing this lead in the time remaining.”
“Got it, Coach,” the players agreed then trotted onto the court.
New York inbounded the ball to their point guard who trotted toward the opposite end of the court.
Hudson backpedaled in front of the ball handler, making occasional unsuccessful attempts at knocking the ball loose.
The Bankers' point guard was focused on keeping the ball out of Hudson's reach and did not see Amie closing in. As she moved across mid-court, she made a cut to the right.
Amie was perfectly positioned to swipe at the ball. She hit it cleanly and knocked it in Hudson's direction.
Hudson grabbed the ball then passed it to Amie who was already charging toward the Cougar basket. She ran after her teammate.
Amie started to slow up when she entered the key.
Hudson charged past her.
Amie bounce passed to Hudson who changed direction to run parallel to the end line and put up a reverse layup.
Amie smiled at Hudson as they trotted back up the court after the basket. “Nice shot, rookie.”
Hudson beamed. “Thanks.”
To Be Continued...
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