Buzzer Beater

Sometimes four seconds feel like forever.

Take, for example, the last four seconds of this championship game between Kensington and Irving high schools, basketball rivals for as long as anyone could remember. Irving’s had the upper hand for two straight years now, but Kensington is determined to steal their thunder and keep their hands away from a three-peat.

“All right, listen . . .” Coach McNeely says, doing away with the board completely as everyone goes for a final huddle. Irving High is up by two points, but Kensington has possession. If they play it smart, they could still win this game and the championship. “Jacobs, you’re in. Make sure that ball stays with us at the inbound. I trust anyone–anyone— to take the shot, but I need someone to either sink a three”–the coach throws a knowing look at team captain Daniel Hunter–“or get an easy two with a foul. Irving’s in the penalty, make good use of it. I’m looking at you, Klein.”

“Got it, coach.”

* * * * *

At the bleachers, Aislyn Kim and Samantha Larsen sit with bated breaths, waiting for the time-out to be over. Sam checks out the scoreboards for the nth time, while Aislyn keeps her eyes on the Kensington huddle.

“What do you think?” Aislyn asks, nudging Sam with her red and gold pompom. “I think they’re going to get Daniel to shoot the three-pointer . . .”

“Oh god, I don’t even want to think right now. My stomach is turning. Four seconds is too much time!”

“Or they could fake and go easy two. Greyson could do it with a quick layup, and Ash could get the rebound or tip it in just in case. Irving’s in penalty, it’s a win-win either way. Or we could go into overtime.”

“No. We cannot go into overtime.”

The brunette glances at her friend. “What? Why not?”

“Kensington sucks at overtime. We have never won any game in overtime, ever. Don’t you remember?”

Aislyn racks her brains, tries to recall last year’s championship match. It had been a fierce fight between the two teams as well–so fierce thirty-two minutes of regulation time weren’t enough to settle things. But the additional five minutes of playing time proved to be a disaster for Kensington, especially since then team captain and star player Henry Goode had suffered a bad ankle sprain and could not continue any longer. Irving won the championship by a measly two points, which broke the hearts of many a Buffalo fan.

So yes, Sam has a point.

The game resumes, and Aislyn now holds her pompoms in a death grip. She sees Justin Perkins from the sidelines, holding the ball and waiting to pass it over to Greyson at the signal. But Irving’s Gunther Connelly isn’t making things as easy as it seems.

* * * * *

The whistle goes off.

The pass was quick, sharp, and determined. Ball in his hands, Greyson wastes no millisecond trying to get it across the court. Three seconds. He passes the ball to Daniel, who fakes but couldn’t shake the person guarding him. He fakes a second time, and the ball flies.

It’s probably an elbow that hits Ashton’s face as he tries to stand his ground in the paint. Two seconds, and he sees the ball in his periphery. It’s a money shot, he tells himself. They’ve got this.

But the damn ball makes a spectacle of swirling itself at the rim of the basket, and Ashton is quick to react, ready to tip it in. One second.

There’s another whistle just as the ball sinks (“Hunter, three!”), and the home court erupts in boisterous cheers, even as both teams have their eyes on the referee.

It’s Kensington-101, Irving-100 with only three quarters of a second to go, and an off-the-ball foul is called against Irving. The cheering only grows louder, more violent, because Kensington’s prized point guard, Greyson Jacobs’ lip is bleeding.

* * * * *

“Oh no . . . what happened?”

“I wasn’t even looking at Greyson! What the hell? Did that guy elbow him or something?” Sam is up in arms, her pompoms now red and gold lumps on the floor. Aislyn drops hers too, in favor of holding Sam down. She’s seen her friend in aggravating situations enough to know what the petite blonde can do, and she isn’t about to let her climb down the bleachers and give Irving player #16 a good talking to.

But it doesn’t matter all that much to majority of the home court crowd. The trophy already has Kensington High’s name on it; Greyson’s two free throws–effortlessly perfect–are just icing on the cake.

The game buzzer sounds, and every single player on the Kensington High Buffalos roster proceed to create a puppy pile over Greyson.

Sam rolls her eyes as she witnesses this testosterone-filled victory ritual. “Guys, his lip is bleeding!” she yells, arm outstretched as if to illustrate a point.

“I don’t think it matters to him anymore, Sam . . .” Aislyn says, grinning. She puts an arm around her friend’s shoulder. “We’re champions!”

“We can finally have our friends back!” Sam adds, and the two girls giddily hug each other.

“Not to mention we won’t have to deal with sulky-faced Ash and Greyson . . .”

“YES! Ugh, I hated that phase so much. But how much are you gonna bet those two are going to gloat to us about their trophy every chance they get?” Sam jerks her head toward the court. The puppy pile has dispersed, but now the boys have lifted Daniel up on their shoulders so he could cut the net off the basket. A souvenir of sorts. Ashton and Greyson have their arms over each other’s shoulders, beaming happily at their captain.

Aislyn shrugs. “Oh let them. Next year it’ll be our year.”

952 words
#promptoftheday response to “basketball”
by pachi ❤

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