A Basketball Story, Part 2

As a young boy, I read the Chip Hilton books by Clair Bee. I loved every story and couldn’t wait for the next book in the series. This excerpt is also from my book Growing Up In Kinmundy Junction. Since it is now time for March Madness, I thought it fit the season.

The rest of the regular season for Kinmundy Junction was anticlimactic. The close call against LaGrove had refocused the team. The Hornets won the rest of their games, and no team came within twenty-five points. The blowouts allowed Coach Anderson to give the bench plenty of playing time. He knew the game experience would benefit them the following year. They won the conference tournament and went into the regional with intense determination. The first two games were blowouts. The Hornets won by thirty-eight and forty-three points. Mount Trenton also won easily, though. The Wildcats had lost only one game all year. Friday night the gym was packed with the largest crowd ever to witness a game in Mount Trenton. The place was louder than ever. Coach Anderson noticed the referees were not the same ones as last year. Mount Trenton won the tip and set up their half-court offense. Robert anticipated a pass to one of the Hilton twins, made a steal and drove in for a layup. He dunked the ball with two hands, and the Hornets never looked back. Mount Trenton was down by fifteen at the half, and the Hornets ended up winning by twenty-six points. The memory of the bad call that ended the game the previous year had been obliterated. Robert was jubilant as he celebrated with his teammates. He saw TyAnn, picked her up, hugged her, then swung her around in a circle. Coach Anderson walked over to shake hands with Jim Wasem, the Mount Trenton coach of many years.

“Congratulations, Bill. You deserve the victory. Your team played better tonight.”

“We had a group of very determined players this year. I think they might be the team to win it all.”

“Before tonight, I thought the same about my team. I figured we were going to win our third state title this year, but we came up against a better team tonight. I wish you luck the rest of the way. Maybe now the rest of the state will learn that the kids from Kinmundy Junction can play ball.”

In the locker room after the game, as the kids whooped and hollered, Coach sat quietly on a folding chair for a couple minutes. He felt the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. Maybe now Kinmundy Junction would be taken seriously. He stood up and got their attention. “I want to tell you boys how proud I am of you regardless of what happens from here on out.”

Robert said, “Coach, we just beat the top-ranked team in the state on their home floor. We have seven more games to win, and we plan on doing just that.”

The sectional round of the tournament was easier than the regional. The Hornets easily beat their opponents by an average of twenty-seven points a game. The only scary moment happened in the Wednesday game when Chuck twisted an ankle. He sat the rest of that game and was not needed in the sectional championship on Friday night.

By Tuesday, the night of the supersectional, Chuck was ready to go. Tuesday night the Hornets traveled to West Charleston to face the Gothenburg City Flaming Hearts. The Hearts had a lineup of giants. They had two players who were six-ten and another player six-eight.

During the warm-ups Robert and David watched their opponents. Robert nudged David and said, “Watch number 55.”

“Yeah, he’s pretty tall,” David replied.

“Every time he dips his shoulder to go up for a shot he brings the ball down to his chest.”

David watched then smiled.

“He becomes just another player,” Robert said.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” David asked.

Robert grinned as he nodded.

The Hornets were not impressed after Robert blocked the first shot attempted by the Flaming Hearts center. The Hornets had too much speed and quickness and overwhelmed the slower taller players. The final score was closer than the actual game, as Coach Anderson played his second string the last five minutes. Still, the Hornets won 84-59.

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