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
Second half – Cougars 57 – Los Angeles 55
Positioned at the top of the key, Sherry shuffled to her right trying to keep her body between the player she was guarding and the basket.
The Los Angeles guard bounced the ball between her legs switching from her right hand to her left then paused dribbling in place.
Sherry stopped her own movement.
Suddenly, the LA guard burst into motion to her left.
Sherry turned to run after the guard but found her forward progress stopped by three other players including Hudson who was following the other LA guard through the top of the key and she was forced to pull up to avoid charging into them.
Left unguarded, the LA guard popped into the air, the ball leaving her hand and arcing toward the basket.
“Time!” Pat called to the officials as the ball dropped through the net.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” Sherry grumbled running toward the Cougar bench.
“What the hell was that?” Pat confronted her frustrated point guard. “Dammit, Sherry, she's too quick... you've got to stay in front of her.”
“I know that,” Sherry insisted irately.
“You don't look like it… you just handed them three easy points,” Pat snapped. “You're out… I'm sending Pete in.”
“There's no reason to take me out,” Sherry protested angrily.
Pat glared at the point guard. “You're out,” she barked then turned to another player. “Jade, I'm going in for you.”
Bending over the scorers' table in order to be heard above the crowd, the Los Angeles head coach, Julie Buttram, asked the officials how many timeouts she had remaining for the game. “Okay, thanks,” she said after receiving a response. Straightening up, she heard the short but heated exchange between Pat and Sherry and paused as the Cougar coach trotted toward the scorers' table. She smiled then turned to rejoin her team.
Sherry stormed to the bench. “Dammit!” she snarled slumping down on a chair.
“Calm down, Gallagher,” Kelley told the fuming player.
“I should still be out there.”
“No, you shouldn't. You're pissed off at yourself and at Coach. Pissed off players make mistakes,” Kelley said firmly. “Cool off… otherwise, you'll be sitting the rest of the game.”
Sherry's eyes narrowed as she glowered at Kelley. She started to snap back then thought better of it. “Shit,” she muttered blowing out a long breath.
“Word to the wise,” Kelley said. “It's not a very good example for the team to have Coach questioned by one of her assistants.”
“I wasn't thinking like a coach at the moment,” Sherry said defensively before glancing down the bench to find most of the players watching her. She turned back to face Kelley. “Guess I screwed that up,” she conceded.
“Yes, you did.”
Sherry sighed. “Oh, boy. Coach is going to kill me, isn't she?”
Standing at the end of the court, the official handed the ball to Hudson who tossed it to Pete running along the baseline.
Dribbling the ball, Pete raced up court. Crossing the mid-court line, she fired a pass back to Hudson running several feet to her right.
Catching the ball, Hudson immediately passed it to Val at the top of the key.
Spinning around to face the basket, Val lobbed toward the basket.
The ball hit the back of the rim and bounced into the air. It dropped back down on the front of the rim then bounced away from the basket.
Running through the bottom of the key, Pat jumped up tipping the ball back toward the basket and into the net. “Press,” she immediately instructed her teammates as the Los Angeles players prepared to inbound the ball.
Arms already waving, Val quickly moved to guard the inbound pass.
Pete and Hudson took up positions opposite the Los Angeles guards while Pat and Terry closely guarded the Los Angeles post players.
The LA guard managed to get a pass off to her teammate being guarded by Hudson. The LA player turned to dribble upcourt only to find her path blocked by Pete who had rushed over to help Hudson double team the ball handler. Finding herself surrounding by waving arms, the LA guard forced a pass to a nearby teammate.
Hudson swiped at the ball managing to get a finger on it and divert it from its intended path.
Val gathered up the loose ball then fired it to Pete who was racing toward the key.
Catching the ball, Pete pulled up to execute a perfect twelve foot jump shot.
“Time,” Buttram shouted and whistles blew.
Pleased that they had reclaimed the lead, the Cougars ran to their bench.
“You ready to go back in?” Kelley asked Sherry as the players huddled around their head coach.
“Report in for Hudson,” Kelley told the point guard.
Pat glanced up at the game clock. “Okay, listen up,” she addressed her players. “We've got the lead and we're going to keep it. I want a full court press and double team the ball until they cross mid-court. Let's make them work to get the ball to their half of the court. And let's not give them any more easy baskets,” she added as Sherry joined the huddle after reporting to the scorers' table. “I'm ready to run for the next three minutes, are you?” she asked the players.
“We're ready,” Pete agreed for her teammates.
“Alright, let's go out there and put this game away,” Pat said stretching her hand out to the center of the huddle.
The players instantly covered the coach's hand, shouting Cougars before breaking the huddle to return to the court.
The ball arced toward the Los Angeles basket on a three point attempt. It hit the backboard and ricocheted toward the basket. Skimming around the inside of the rim, it circled the hoop before rolling up and out to fall back into play.
Leaping up, Val snatched the ball away from two LA players. Dropping back to the floor, she looked for her teammates.
Pat, Sherry, and Pete were already charging for the opposite end of the court, their defenders racing to catch them.
Val swung a bounce pass around her defender to Terry who was unguarded on the opposite side of the key.
Pat, Sherry, and Pete crossed mid-court with only one LA player being fast enough to get between them and their basket. They glanced back at their teammates.
Terry heaved a pass down the left side of the court.
Pete ran under the pass, controlling the ball then flipping it to Sherry who was running down the center of the court.
Sherry sent the ball to Pat on the right side of the court.
Backpedaling, the LA player struggled to defend against the three Cougars. She decided to stick with the current ball handler, Pat.
Seeing their lone defender make a move in her direction, Pat passed back to Sherry.
Sherry barely touched the ball before bounce passing to Pete who was nearing the key.
Pete grabbed the ball and took one more step before putting the ball up for a lay-up. Before the ball dropped through the net, she was already positioned to guard the impending inbound pass.
Final buzzer – Cougars 76 – Los Angeles 61
Jackson trudged along near the end of the line of Cougar players as the two teams met to exchange after game pleasantries. “Good game,” she repeated indifferently to each LA player that moved past. Her interest perked up when the LA coach approached. “That was a hard loss,” she said.
Buttram looked quizzically at the player. “I don't recall you playing tonight.”
“I'm a reserve this year… Brenda Jackson.”
“Ah. Well, good luck. Calvin is a good coach… I'm sure you'll learn a lot from her.”
Jackson smiled. “I'm more interested in what I can get from Gallagher.”
“Excuse me?” Buttram stuttered confused by the comment.
“Trying to recruit my players again, Julie?” Pat asked stepping between Jackson and the LA coach. She had been at the rear of the line but had quickly moved forward when the players had stopped moving.
“Not at all, Pat,” Buttram replied.
“Jackson, shouldn't you be with your teammates?” Pat asked the rookie without taking her eyes off the other coach.
“Sure, Coach,” Jackson replied casually before following her teammates already trotting out of the arena.
Buttram nodded to Kelley and Sherry who acknowledged the coach as they ushered the remaining Cougars to the locker room. “You and Gallagher put on quite the show tonight, Pat,” she said when they were left alone. “I was surprised you played so well together.”
“Rumor mill has it that you've hit some bumps on the road in your little love fest.”
Pat's back stiffened. “That's inappropriate, Julie, and you know it.”
“Just informing you what's being said.”
“You shouldn't believe everything you hear about me,” Pat said harshly then she smiled. “After all, I don't believe most of the shit I've been told about you.”
“Such as?” Buttram demanded.
Pat shrugged. “Like I said, I don't pay much mind to the gossip around the league,” she said nonchalantly. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get to my team.” She turned to walk off the court.
“Next time we meet Pat,” Buttram called to the retreating coach, “I'll wipe the floor with you.”
Pat stopped then turned back to face Buttram. “Did I misread the schedule? Isn't this our last game against one another this season?”
“You're forgetting the championship game,” Buttram snarled.
Pat laughed. “Oh, you think you'll be there, huh?”
“We'll be there… and I'll guarantee that you won't be taking home that trophy this year.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Pat said as she turned to walk away. “By the way, Julie,” she tossed back over her shoulder. “I didn't need the rumor mill to tell me you're a bitch. #
To Be Continued...
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