In which a game goes down to the wire.
My high school basketball reporting experience this year has been decidedly one-sided. Other than two games that featured two local teams, and thus had me covering both the winners and losers, just about every game I’ve done this year has been a comfortable win. More often than not, the team I’m writing about has been on the wrong side of the blow-out.
Tuesday night looked like yet another game where I would struggle to put together 400 words about a team that was never in the game. As the third quarter wound down, the W’s, as I’ll call my team, trailed the D’s by 15 points. The W’s were shooting a cool 19% for the game, were under 50% from the line, and couldn’t get a rebound to save their lives. The only thing they could do right was pressure defense. The W’s were forcing turnovers left and right, but couldn’t convert. On the rare possession they did score, they’d let the D’s come right back and score immediately.
Things looked bleak when one of the W’s took a deep three pointer that came up about five feet short. I could sense that the fourth quarter was going to be mind numbing as the airballs piled up and I struggled to track all the missed shots while thinking about what my lede should be.
Then, the W’s started hitting shots.
Then a two.
Then another three.
The deficit was 12. Then ten. Then seven. Suddenly the game seemed within reach. They kept forcing turnovers, but finally they were running offense and getting clean looks. Another three cut it to four. Traded baskets and free throws had it at three with under a minute to play.
I was seated right behind the W’s bench. With about 30 seconds left, one of their guards came off a screen right in front of me, got the ball, and unleashed a high arcing shot. It looked about as pure as could be from my view. It dropped through the net; tie game! And then, “TWEET!” I looked down to see the shooter on the ground with a defender on top of her. And one! A free throw to take the lead after being down by 15! Finally, something juicy to write about!
Alas, she missed the free throw. Then, for some strange reason, the W’s point guard decided to foul 60 feet from the basket. In a tie game. With under 30 seconds left. When she had four fouls. Oy! Or WTF, depending on your point of view.
The D’s hit both shots to go up two.
The W’s came back, got the ball to the girl who had just tied the game. She looked down the lane, saw a clear path, and headed towards the hoop. A defender closed and she went up, twisting and flipped a difficult lay-up from five feet.
It rimmed out.
The W’s couldn’t corral the rebound, were forced to foul again, and ended up losing by four.
I made my way back to the locker room and could hear their coach screaming at them. In 15 minutes I went from dreading writing about the game, to being very excited about it, to now dreading talking to the coach after her team blew the game.
When she emerged she looked to be in no mood to talk, so I let her go sit with her assistants and cool off. When I finally talked to her, she had calmed down but still was not pleased with her team.
But the story came together ok, I guess. I built the story around the comeback and the coach’s laments about missing the opportunities to win the game. And I got to watch a hell of a fourth quarter for a change.