So with 2.5 seconds left, and down by two, our team inbounds the ball…..
No, not the Stanford Women’s Basketball team, they beat UC Davis handily yesterday by a score of 93-44. C and R are talking about the little girls we coach, and their game that happened at the exact same time as the Stanford game (which is why we had to give up our tix to see Stanford Women’s Basketball, and we had to pry the tix out of R’s hand on top of that. It was verrrrry tough to not go to Maples).
Let’s back up a bit. The little girls we help coach are not so little anymore, now in middle school, and we help our friend coach her daughter and her friends. And we coach in the local recreational league. Everyone plays an equal amount of minutes regardless of skill level. The emphasis is on teaching, not the score, and that’s how we like it. And boy, do we teach; boxing out, cross over dribbles, full court press, a Stanford inbounds play. We give them a lot of knowledge. And they respond. They are fantastic in practice. And then we start the game and they forget everything we taught them. A player for both teams each shot at the wrong basket. Luckily they both missed.
When we got to the gym last night, the other team was doing this fancy four-corner drill complete with two balls. It looked like something right out of Stanford. Two of the girls were almost as tall as us. One looked really big and strong. We often forget to box out in practice, let alone games. R turned to C and we both thought, we are going to get creamed. But our girls held their own. The nice thing about this league is they really balance the teams and the girls are all ‘sometime players’, not the year around club players. They all shoot crooked and with two hands heaves no matter what we drill them on.
Still, the other team had a commanding three point lead on us (Hey, when games are usually won 10-9, three points is a lot). But our full court press rattled them and we got within two! We kept trading baskets in the final minutes and both teams got to the 20’s. We were so impressed with our team. It was 23-21them with 16 seconds left. They inbound and we pressured them to turn it over in their backcourt out of bounds with 2.5 seconds left. We call time out and tell them they have to catch and shoot.
So with 2.5 seconds left, and down by two, near our basket we inbound the ball…..We inbound by the skin of our teeth and our guard heeds are advice and heaves it and is knocked to the ground. Hard. We run out to the fallen girl. There are some tears, lots of hugs. The clock has expired. The kind elderly gentleman ref has given us and 1 and 1 call (they had seven team fouls, we only had three).
As she is crying, C (me) has a thought, one that is kinda an antithesis to the league mentality. I know, I know, it is abut teaching not the score, but the coach in my, the competitor in me, just wants to use every advantage we have. So I am thinking if she is hurt, which the tears seem to indicate, then we can replace her with another player, preferably our best free throw shooter. As I turn to our best free throw shooter to ask her about taking the shot, the elderly gentleman ref comes over and voices my plan. He says, “ya know, if she is hurt, you can replace her with another player to take the shot.” See, he’s like me, nothing wrong with playing smart. However, the hurt girl wipes her tears with the back of her hand and says, “No. I’m okay, I’ll take the shot.” And you know what? I instantly changed my mental attitude and thought that was awesome that she wants the pressure and the responsibility of these final shots. Guess coach learned something today.
Since time has expired, everyone steps to half court. She is the only one at the basket. The whole half court is empty except for her and the ref, who bounces her the ball and steps back. She is all alone. She dribbles. She aims. She thinks about it for a long time. It is silent in the gym. You could hear a pin drop. She shoots, gives a little jump. The ball arcs high… falls to the basket… and misses the rim, the net, the backboard. Everything. Not even close. As coach, you just smile and clap, say “way to go” and make a mental note to work on free throws in practice. I motion to the ref she’s done, shake my head no, it was 1 and 1 and she missed. He shakes his head yes. He is giving her another shot, even though it won’t help us win or is technically legal in a 1 and1 situation. He bounces her the ball. She misses that one too. Oh well, we cheer the other team and slap their hands and make our players shake hands with the refs. Good sportsmanship is always practiced in this league.
After the game, it was one of our player’s birthday, so we embarrassed her by singing in the gym for all to hear. Then everyone shared cookies and juice, making crumbs everywhere. There were lots of smiles and giggles. Thinking back, C turned to R and said, “we totally won that game.”
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