The five Washington boys looked stunning in their blue and white uniforms. Their first game was against Lynbrook’s Centurions. Each year their key club had managed to bring their varsity basketball teams’ starting lineup. They had even brought their cheerleaders as support.
Derrick shook his head, “Every year they bring their varsity team, and they never win.”
“Too cocky, not enough determination to win,” Hughes replied back.
The five boys got a good laugh joking around about Lynbrook’s team, but one thing was certain they still had to play hard and smart. Lynbrook’s team was still their varsity starting lineup.
The ref blew the whistle and motioned the two teams to form around half court. A few extra rules were explained and both teams shook hands. The two big men of each team squared off to start off with a jump ball. Simultaneously on all four courts referees popped the ball into the air. Joshua managed to tip the ball into Dietrich’s hands. The tournament was on.
Lynbrook’s green and gold uniforms streaked down the court forming a defensive formation as Washington’s attack advanced right behind. Dietrich pushed the ball further into Lynbrook’s territory only to be greeted by two defenders. He swung the bull out to Hughes but an extra Lynbrook defender swung in causing Joshua to open up down low. Hughes spun around avoiding the defender swinging the ball behind him towards Joshua. He easily tipped it in causing a huge uproar in Washington’s section.
The next couple possessions mirrored each other. Lynbrook ran down court a few times jacking up a few threes, with Washington capitalizing on each of their errors. Lynbrook’s team was bickering with each other as each player hogged the ball trying to show off. Their circus shots weren’t connecting and Washington was quickly pulling away. Washington led 12 to 5 at the half.
At the start of the next half Lynbrook started with possession of the ball. The big center made a bumbling mistake as he tried to inbound the ball cross court for an easy point instead of passing it to his point guard. Hughes leaped into the air picking off the pass and took off down court with Dietrich trailing. He faked a layup and attracted both defenders leaving Dietrich wide open behind him. He passed tossing the ball above and behind his head as Dietrich cleaned up with another easy layup. The look of frustration and anger started to be more apparent on the Centurions. They were being torn apart.
Washington cut through Lynbrook like a hot knife cutting through butter. Grant crossed over his defender nearly causing him to fall over and ran in as a lane opened up towards the basket. Their big man tried to obstruct his path, but it was too late. Grant was in the air with his torso in his face. The ball tear dropped into the net causing yet another Washington uproar. The final whistle blew and Washington poured onto the court from the bleachers. The first game had been won.
WAH- SHING- TON! WAH- SHING- TON! The game was over and Washington’s morale and volume soared. The five boys were chest bumping, high fiving, and complimenting each other. Even Grant’s demeanor had changed and lightened up. Winning really felt good.
The MC blew a whistle on stage. “Congratulations to the four teams advancing onto the semi-finals! Riverside High School, Oikos Christian Academy, Claremont, and Washington! The competition is heating up and we’ll begin the next round in fifteen minutes!” The crowd cheered, athletes hydrated, and schools regrouped. As the intensity doubled, the number of competitors was cut in half. Washington had relatively breezed past the first round; however the next round wouldn’t be as easy. Dietrich looked at the brackets to find that the next team to beat was Riverside High School. He remembered it was the team that the Joseph boy was part of.
In the chorus of chanting and a midst all the chaos he spotted Joseph and the mass of Riverside High’s students. They had one of the larger groups alongside Washington and Claremont but by far the loudest. Riverside High School usually went all out for these events, painting their faces, bringing their mascot costumes; they even had a small three man marching band.
“Riverside and Washington High School please report to court two and sit in your designated bleachers. Claremont and Oikos report to court one please. Can we also get Julia Kwon of Oikos’s key club president to report with them?” The crowd murmured with rumors of “the curse’. Every year there had been one team that was eliminated because of injury, and it seemed like Oikos had been cursed this year. There was a report that one of the Oikos’s team members got injured in the last game with Monta Vista, but they still managed to close it out. Since the rules stated that only five members from each key club were allowed to play in the tournament; if one got injured, it was game over.
The Washington herd moved to court one and situated themselves in the bleachers. Charlie was awkwardly sitting in the middle of the pack of Derrick Cross’s fan girls holding up a “Go Washington’ poster. Charlie looked at Dietrich and held up a poster and Dietrich waved back in response with a smile. Washington’s team got into a tight huddle. The boys had a look of excitement on their faces yet still displayed a hint of hesitation.
Derrick spoke up in the huddle. “We didn’t play these boys last year cause their team was cursed but it looks like the same team from last year. As long as we take control inside we should be fine. So Joshua, we need you to screen more for us when we drive and all of us need to swing out to guard the open man.” Each member listened carefully. Even Grant knew that Derrick knew what he was talking about, and so he gave his respect and attention. “Grant, make sure you make the extra pass to the open man, and stop driving if you don’t have the open lane. We can’t keep backing you up forever. Alright?” The group nodded. Let’s do this together, Derrick turned around and got the group to interact with him, “Washington on three; one, two, THREE!” The crowd exploded, “WASHINGTON!”
The two teams met at the center of the court and greeted one another with a hand shake. Riverside’s team wasn’t particularly big, but was fast. Even their big men were quick. Most of the players attacked the basket instead of looking for the jump shot, and they knew their way around each other well. Hansol was their tall lanky rebounding machine making it hard to take inside shots. Scott who was even bigger than Hansol played forward being able to both drive and shoot with his quickness. Aaron was the shortest of the group able to hit the outside shots, but had an uncanny ability to hit some circus shots driving inside. Ted was the former track star they had picked up and simply put, he was incredibly fast. He had the ability to pick up loose balls and was a demon on fast breaks. Joseph walked up to Dietrich and shook hands.
“I heard the score against Lynbrook and I was a little shocked.” Joseph was lean with a look of a soccer player since he was primarily one. He had a funky walk as he swayed left and right horizontally, but Dietrich had watched his past games and knew he was athletic and a great distributor playing the point even though he didn’t look it.
“We knew how they play so it wasn’t that hard to take “ehm down.”
Joseph smiled, “Good luck man.” They shook hands and hugged.
Dietrich knew this one wasn’t going to be easy for him. As both teams were set to play the MC had retaken the stage to give another announcement. “I have a special announcement, due to the injuries suffered by Oikos, Claremont will play Monta Vista instead of automatically advancing to the finals. There was a mixture of cheers and disappointment. Monta Vista had gone into a frenzy as they got a free chance to advance to the finals even with the lose, and Claremont was pissed since their free ride had disappeared.
The referee blew the whistle on court two. “Let’s go, we still got a game to play here”
Hansol and Joshua squared off for the jump ball and the referee popped the ball into the air. Hansol easily out reached Joshua but mistakenly tipped the ball into Hughes’s hands. Washington rallied to strike for first blood. Hughes looked for Dietrich but since Riverside’s man guarded him well he bounce passed to Joshua. However in the middle of the pass Joseph ran in and stole the ball flying down court. Hughes and Grant ran down court hoping to block him, but they were too far behind. Joseph jumped and carefully tossed the ball into the basket and the whole Riverside bleachers erupted into cheering. The three man Riverside band started to play a victory melody, a girl named Yuna stood up and yelled something in Korean. Riverside High School had a predominately Asian population, thus reflecting their all Asian roster.
Washington tried to regroup. Joshua inbounded to Dietrich and they ran down court with the ball. Dietrich feinted inside and tried to cross Joseph but Joseph was a persistent defender. He passed to Derrick, which found a cutting Grant for an open shot; nothing but net. Each team made it clear; every possession was going to be a fight to the end.
“DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!” Washington’s bleachers kicked back at Riverside’s screams. Joseph and Scott pushed down together as the rest of Riverside’s team set up an offense. Joseph trotted over the half court line swinging the ball over to Ted, which in turn swung the ball over to Aaron. Aaron tried to plow through Joshua but ended up hitting a brick wall.
“FOUL!” The referee blew his whistle. “Riverside ball up top.”
Aaron lobbed inbounds at Joseph, but this time Derrick swooped in stealing the ball careening down court. The Derrick fan girls went nuts as he connected with a wide open layup. “The score is 4-2, Riverside ball!”
Riverside pushed the ball down court once more. Joseph bounced the ball over to Ted and he ran straight for the basket. Hughes’, whom was guarding Ted had managed to stay in front of Ted; Joshua stepped in to help from his zone. Ted launched himself and spun around to face his back toward Hughes, he scanned the court to find an open Scott planted on the three point line. Ted swung the ball over and Scott popped in the open three. The lead had already changed. 5-2.
“Let’s change it up a bit, let me run the point.” Grant looked slightly annoyed as Washington let Riverside have two easy buckets. Dietrich hesitated and decided it was okay for Grant to run the point for a while, and if things didn’t go well he’d just switch back.
Grant and the Washington boys ran back down court to retake the lead. The look on Grant’s face seemed to change and it was no longer fun and games. As soon as his feet touched the three point line he stepped back from his defender and jacked up a three, air ball. “What the heck are you doing man?” Derrick was obviously not very happy at Grant’s decision.
“My bad, I had the open look”
Derrick just shook his head and ran down court. It was obvious that Washington was slowly falling apart. Grant looked indifferent as he looked on towards Riverside pushing down court. Riverside’s chanting and cheering was almost going out of control; Washington on the other hand was silent with worried looks on their faces.
Joseph pranced down midcourt waiting for the open man. He found Scott at the baseline, but just as he received the ball he was swarmed by Dietrich and Hughes. The ball was ripped from his hands by Hughes and placed into Dietrich’s hands. He slowed the ball movement down a bit. “Stop getting restless and regroup. We still have this one if we calm down.” Dietrich got a nod from each of the boys.
Washington managed to hold their own against the Riverside boys slowing the game down and getting good looks for their shots. At half time the game was dead even at sixteen a piece.