Penetrations and Explosions

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"Shoot it. Shoot it. Come on. Shoot it."

I was muttering the words as I was focusing on the ten-foot-high hole with the ball in my hand. I was caressing the ball between my hands before I attempted the shot from the free-throw line.

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It was early in the third quarter and we were down by 5 points. I aimed, placed the ball over my head and using the force gathered from my knees I let the shot go. A sigh of relief came over me as I watched the shot go into the basket and hit nothing but the net.

The score was now 54-50 and I had one shot left. With the same ritualistic preparation, I made the shot again. We're just down by possession and it was a manageable deficit.

We went back on defense and just like that they drained another 3 on us. We got the ball back and we lost the ball on a turnover. Demoralized with our defensive strategy and our sloppy offensive setups, we blew plays and we gave up point by point to the opponents.

The making of a blowout continue until the 3rd quarter ended and the score was 78-60. The lead ballooned up to 18 points. And for an amateur team like ours, it was nearly impossible to even bring the game closer.

With our backs against the wall, our coach pulled me over to the side and told me to gather up my courage.

"You see the ring? Shoot it. Do you see an opening? Drive. Your first goal is to shoot. Forget passing."

I suddenly felt the pressure being heavier on my shoulder. And then Marcus came over to me. He was playing as our center.

"Just shoot. I got the boards covered."

He said and tapped my back.

And then Will came over and tapped on my shoulder.

"We go this."

And then I looked over to my teammates and they all nodded in agreement. It felt like I was recharged and the pressure I was feeling before was converted to a fresh supply of raw energy.

The ball is on our court and we inbounded it. Will dribbled it with his fancy ball handling and I was waiting just on the corner of the court and the ball went right into my hands.

I watched my defender near the basket slow to react and close in on me. I let the three fly and it hit the side of the rim and it bounced out. Marcus flew in and grabbed the rebound and in a split second, the ball is back on my hands.

I felt a bit of hesitation since I just missed a shot moments before. But then I saw the back of Marcus' jersey and it gave me comfort to know that he's there fighting for everything.

Again, my defender was complacent in defending me and I aimed the ring between my eyes and shot right over my opponent.

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I felt his arm reach mine and I went down on the ground as the ball went right into the basket.

"Basket! Three!!!! Plus a foul!"

I heard the commentator go wild and the referee whistled as I hit the floor. It was ecstatic to see the ball go in.

My teammates rushed over to help me stand. And then I went back on the line to collect another freebie. And it's good.

It was just a 4 point play but it was enough to pump blood back into our veins. 78-64 was the score but we were shot with adrenaline. As the opponent set their play, Will was quick and secured a steal.

He ran back to our court with the speed of light and scored a quick 2 points. 78-66 and our side of the crowd started to get into the game.

The ball went back to our opponent's and this time Marcus completed a block as I gathered the loose ball. I threw it straight to Will and all of us ran as if our lives depended on it.

He found me just stopping right on top of the key and with a momentum-filled three-point shot the crowd went wild.

The rally continued and we were back within 5 points with 3 minutes remaining on the game clock. 90-85 and it was a ball game.

We were huddling on the side and it was obvious from all our panting and our hands or knees that we were spent and we were exhausted. But we knew that we knew that we had to push through all our limits to turn the game to our side.

It was our turn to set the ball and our plays were all focused on the inside. We were penetrating their defense as hard as we could and we managed to tie the game. In less than 2 minutes in the game, the crowd was wild but we I couldn't hear a thing.

I was dead focused on the ball and on our plays. I got the ball right on top and I was double-teamed and I had to give the ball up to Will who was running to the goal. He flew and attempted a lay but he was hacked right between the eyes and he fell hard on the floor. As he did, the shoving started. Bodies bumping into each other and fists were flying here and there.

It was the start of a brawl and things escalated when the crowd joined the fiasco. Stones and rocks flew over our heads as people threw at each other what they could get their hands on.

We ran for cover and within minutes, it was silenced by the sirens of the police cars. Thank the heavens for no one was seriously injured, a couple of people with cuts and bruises but nothing really serious.

The game was called off and we were all losers in the end. Basketball is life but sometimes, it blows up like that.

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