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
Pat was sitting in the screening room with Sherry and Kelley where they had been watching films of the Cougars' next opponent for the past few hours. Yawning, she rubbed her eyes. “Doesn't look like Julie made too many changes from last season,” she said of the Los Angeles Beachcombers' coach.
“I'm surprised Dawn isn't one of her starters,” Kelley observed leaning back in her chair. “Especially after all the trouble she went through to get on the LA roster.”
“Not to mention, all the trouble she caused us,” Sherry muttered.
“Julie has two of the better post players as starters… Dawn is going to have to work pretty hard to take one of their spots,” Pat told her assistants as she turned off the projector and yawned again. “I think we have a handle on what to expect from LA tomorrow. So, unless you have anything else to discuss, what say we call it a night?”
“You won't get an argument from me,” Kelley stated glancing out the room's windows at the dark night. “Ugh,” she groaned standing. “I'm getting too old for these eighteen hour days,” she grumbled stretching out her tired back. “I hear a nice long soak calling my name. Good night.”
Pat watched her assistant coach shuffle stiffly out of the room. “You ready to go home?” she asked her other assistant.
“Hours ago,” Sherry replied rubbing her eyes. “I think you left out telling me about these long days when you sold me on becoming a coach,” she grumbled pushing herself up from her chair.
“I told you,” Pat countered. “You just didn't listen.” She stood then walked around her desk to join her lover. “Come on,” she said reaching for Sherry's hand. “Let's get out of here.”
“Shouldn't we call security and let them know we're done?”
“We'll stop at their office on the way out.”
“Do we really have to be back here in six hours?” Sherry asked sleepily.
“Ugh! Don't bother to wake me when we get home, I'm sleeping in the car.”
“Okay,” Pat agreed flipping off the lights.
Sherry set the phone's headset back on its cradle. “That was security,” she told Pat and Kelley. “The LA bus just pulled into the parking lot.”
The three coaches were in Pat's office discussing strategy for the game in the evening.
Eyes closed, Pat was leaning back in her chair yawning— something she had been doing most of the morning. “Aren't they early?” she asked.
“They're scheduled for practice from ten to two,” Kelley responded after checking her notes.
“Four hours of practice on a game day,” Sherry commented. “That's not very nice.”
Pat stretched out her arms. “Julie wants to beat us tonight,” she said standing.
“As if,” Sherry muttered.
“Getting a little cocky, aren't you?” Kelley teased.
Sherry grinned. “I've heard that cocky can be a good thing.”
“Talking doesn't win games, ladies,” Pat told them. “I better go greet our guests,” she said halfheartedly.
“Want me to do that for you, Coach?” Kelley offered.
Pat started to decline then thought better of it. “Yeah,” she replied nodding. “That will save me from having to listen to Julie telling me how she's the better coach with the better team.”
“Has she forgotten we beat them last season?” Sherry asked.
“You have to know Julie… let's say she's pretty—”
“Cocky,” Kelley finished.
Pat laughed. “I was going to say arrogant but cocky will do. Thanks for doing the meet and greet,” she told Kelley with a smile.
“No sweat,” Kelley said standing. “Shouldn't take too long… she'll bitch about the small visitors' locker room, the poor quality balls that don't bounce true, and the innate unfairness of having to play a game in the Kodak Shrine.”
“Uh?” Sherry grunted.
“She doesn't like the overly enthusiastic fans we have that worship Coach,” Kelley explained.
“Oh, please,” Pat protested.
Kelley grinned. “I've heard the same complaints for the past three years. You'd think she could come up with some new ones. Wish me luck,” she said walking toward the door.
“Does she really think that about you?” Sherry asked Pat after Kelley left.
“Doesn't it bother you?”
Pat shook her head. “Why should it? We do have enthusiastic fans that like to spend the entire game chanting Kodak . If Julie… or the rest of the coaches don't like it, who cares? I don't tell them how their fans should act in their arenas.” She stepped away from her desk. “I think I'll go up to the weight room for a while.”
“Okay. I'll keep an eye on things here then,” Sherry said then watched the head coach walk away. “Wonder if I can sneak in a quick nap,” she muttered to herself eyeing the seldom used couch pushed into a corner of the office.
Pat walked out of the locker room into the corridor and turned in the direction opposite the court to walk to the weight room. She pulled up short when she noticed a Los Angeles player walking down the corridor toward her.
“Morning, Coach,” the player greeted her.
“Morning, Dawn,” Pat greeted the player trying to hide her uneasiness.
Dawn grinned. “Don't worry, Coach, I'm not planning anything.”
Pat relaxed but remained wary of the player who had been on the Cougar roster the year before and was responsible for several problems including Sherry's concussion. “Good to hear.”
“Uniform looks good on you, Coach.”
“Thanks.” Pat glanced down the corridor behind Dawn where the visitor locker room was located. “Aren't you going to be missed?” she asked hesitantly.
“Nah… most of the team is still getting dressed. I thought I'd get some practice in without them. Do I need an escort to the court?”
Pat shook her head. “First to a practice session,” she commented, “that's a good change.”
“Beats sitting in the locker room listening to Coach Buttram rattle on and on about this and that.”
“I see your respect for coaches is unchanged,” Pat said dryly.
Dawn laughed. “I'm working on that,” she said. “Good luck tonight, Coach,” she added moving past Pat toward the court. “You're going to need it,” she called back over her shoulder.
Pat smiled, her eyes following her ex-player until she disappeared out the end of the corridor. Then she turned and continued her walk to the weight room.
“Alright, ladies,” Pat started her pre-game instructions to her players. “We're going to keep it simple tonight. “Tempo up. Ball movement. Find the open player.” She paused to look around at her team. “Pete, Sherry, push the ball up court.”
“Got it, Coach,” Pete replied.
“Let's control the boards. LA is pretty good at getting multiple opportunities at the basket… I want that taken away from them tonight.”
“Got it, Coach,” several players responded.
“Are we ready?” Pat asked, her voice rising.
“Ready, Coach,” came the shouted response.
“Okay, let's get out there and get warmed up,” Pat directed her team.
Kelley pulled open the door to the corridor. “Move it, ladies,” she shouted as the players charged out of the locker room. “Sounds like another sell out,” she told the head coach after the room emptied.
“How can you tell?” Pat asked.
Kelley laughed. “The vibrating walls kinda give it away.” She grew serious. “Think we'll have any trouble from Dawn tonight.”
Pat shrugged. “Let's hope not,” she said pensively before trotting out of the room.
Second Half – Los Angeles 67 – Cougars 58
“Time,” Pat shouted to an official. “Who are our best shooters from fifteen feet?” she asked Kelley as the players ran toward the bench.
“Sherry, Pete… you.”
“Dimchek… if she's around the top of the key.”
“Perfect.” Pat looked down the bench. “Dimchek, you're going in.”
The rookie jumped up.
“Get back here right away,” Pat told Dimcheck when she ran past on her way to the scorers' table. “Latesha, you're out,” she told the veteran. “Alright, listen up,” she demanded of Sherry, Pete, Ashley, and Terry. “They're killing us with their collapsing defense around the edges of the key,” she started as soon as Dimchek joined the huddle. “But they're leaving the top of the key open. So this is what I want,” she said drawing five circles on a white board that had half of a basketball court permanently marked on it. “Pete, Sherry, bring the ball up to here,” she directed drawing lines on the whiteboard. “Ashley, Terry, work the bottom of the key… keep switching off. Dimchek, I want you to slide to the top of the key but don't be too obvious about it. Pete, Sherry, get the ball to Dimchek. When you get the ball,” she said directly to the rookie, “take the shot. The rest of you box out and grab any rebounds. Questions?” she asked looking at the players.
“We got it, Coach,” Pete answered for her teammates.
“Good.” Pat peered intently at her players. “I don't want to lose this game,” she told them. “Let's catch them off guard and get the lead back.”
The buzzer sounded announcing the end of the time out.
“Let's go,” Sherry shouted leading her teammates back onto the court.
“Don't you think you should have gone in instead of Dimchek?” Kelley asked the head coach as they took seats on the bench.
“They'd expect me to be in there to take the shots. This way they'll be focusing on Sherry. Let's hope they aren't too concerned with a rookie being there,” Pat said glancing up at the clock which showed less than five minutes remaining in the game.
Not wanting to clue the defense into the new play, Sherry kept watch on her teammates without looking directly at them as she dribbled up court.
Crossing mid-court, Pete cut toward the key. She looked back at Sherry as if she expected a pass from the point guard, the move drawing two defenders out to guard her.
Ashley and Terry ran a crossing pattern through the bottom of the key keeping their defenders occupied.
Sherry dribbled across mid-court, faked a cut to the right then immediately spun completely around and took off to the left. Surprised by the unanticipated move, her defender was left out of position and several feet behind the charging point guard.
Seeing Sherry undefended and charging toward the basket, Dimchek's defender left her position to pick up the guard.
Left unguarded, Dimcheck quickly shuffled to the top of the key.
Sherry fired a pass to Dimchek.
Dimchek caught the ball, squared to the basket, and popped into the air.
The ball passed cleanly through the rim.
“Great play,” Pat shouted jumping up off the bench. “Great play!” she repeated pacing along the sideline. “Keep it up… keep it up.”
Second Half – Los Angeles 74 – Cougars 73
Pete shot a twelve foot jump shot that hit the side of the rim then ricocheted away from the basket.
Terry leaped for the rebound but just as her fingers touched the ball it was knocked away by a Los Angeles player.
A whistle blew stopping play after the ball flew into the stands. “Cougar ball,” an official called out.
“Time,” Pat shouted looking up at the game clock. “If we can score off the inbound pass, there won't be enough time left for LA to go the length of the court and score,” she told her players as they huddled around her. “Here's what I want you to do,” she said taking the white board from Kelley. “Understand?” she asked the players after drawing out the play.
Pete stood anxiously on the opposite of the end line waiting for the officials to restart play. Ashley, Terry, Dimchek had taken up their normal positions forming a straight line in front of the guard with Beachcombers interspersed among them. Sherry was standing near the top of the key as if to guard against a possible steal and fast break to the opposite end of the court.
The official blew her whistle then handed the ball to Pete.
The LA player guarding Pete started jumping up and down waving her arms wildly.
Pete slapped the ball loudly.
Ashley, Terry, and Dimchek ran away from the key to their right taking their guards with them.
Sherry ran straight for Pete.
Feigning left, Pete smiled when her guard took fell for the fake. She tossed the ball to the right and toward Sherry.
Sherry slashed through the empty key, caught the ball then popped into the air for a three foot jump shot.
The ball dropped through the net just as the buzzer sounded ending the game.
To Be Continued...
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