Ethan won an Honorable Mention in the Memoir category of the 2018 Scholastic Writing Awards
By Ethan Hudson
The smell of sweat draped over the gym. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife. In the back corner of the gym, we were battling to be the first-ranked team entering the playoffs. We had our work cut out for us, but we knew that we could come out on top.
“Hands up, Defense! Close the gaps in the middle!” my coach hollered. You could hear the sound of moving feet sparking up the gym floor. Both teams playing were streaking all across the court, diving for loose balls, and cutting toward the basket. Triple-overtime brought out the adrenaline in everyone.
I bellowed, “Great job D, keep your hands up!” The other team was running out of options. Our defense was closing in on them, frustrating them. The enormous crowd was erupting like an active volcano every time the ball was touched. I could hear the roar as I was closing in on my man, trying to lock him down, despite his quickness and razor sharp cuts to the hoop. He gave the ball back up to the wing guard. Our defense was relentless, and he had nowhere to go. Picking up his dribble, he tried to look around for a pass. All the lanes were blocked off. In a moment of desperation, he flung a shot toward the hoop. Our defense was perfect; I knew it, the crowd knew it, and my coach did too as he was smacking his hands together with enthusiasm. But unfortunately, there was just one flaw. The ball spiraled off the backboard, clanged the front of the rim... and floated in. Then, the shooter bulleted down to the other side of the court basking in his momentary victory, arms posed in the air, yelling and screaming in sheer glory. 34-32, Them.
“What?! That was all luck, he wasn’t even expecting that to come close!” I hissed at myself. I forced myself to calm down. I couldn’t help but think that our winning streak was on the line. Our record was 5-0, and we were facing another undefeated team. It was the last game of the regular season. There was no way that we were going to decide to lose now. “No excuse,” I recited to myself, “just produce.”
Our center, Cooper, inbounded the ball to me. I calmly brought the ball over to half-court. I sneered at the clock. I simply did not want to see what my eyes were telling me. Th-th-th-thirty s-s-s-seconds left! Down by 2! I felt my whole world shaking, like just before an earthquake. It was such a close game, nobody had time to even look at the score. Except the crowd, of course. They were giving high fives to the other team, acting like they had already won, even though our opponents themselves knew they hadn’t.
I thought to myself, We’ll see about that. Whipping a pass down low to Cooper, I ran around the edge of him, trying to receive a mini pass that would leave me a clear lane to the basket. Cooper saw what I was trying to do, but was unable to feed me the ball with the pesky defense the opposing team was playing. I knew that the crowd would soon begin counting down the last 10 seconds. Cooper fired a pass back out to our wing guard.
“10, 9, 8, 7…” Time was running out. Hope was running out. We need a three, a two would just send us into a fourth overtime and we couldn’t have that. Everybody was tired, and using the last of their energy. We needed to end the game right here, right now. And that was when I saw it. The perfect opportunity. There was about an inch or two between the spot and the defender, one of the most open spaces there had been all game, and it was behind the three-point line. I bolted to the spot.
“HERE, HERE!” I boomed. My teammate swung the ball over to me. I could barely hear the crowd, knowing that if I was going to make this shot, I needed to be locked in. I took one sharp dribble to the side and readied my form. “3, 2, 1!”
I released the ball with just a millisecond on the clock. Now, all it had to do was go in. The ball hung in the air, which to me looked like slow motion, as if it had been 30 years since I had released my shot. As the ball was slowly traveling through the crowded air, it looked way off to me. Not in line with the hoop. No chance…
I closed my eyes in defeat. “We were so close…,” I muttered to myself. As I reopened my eyes for a last courtesy glance, I saw that something had changed. The ball was now cleanly flicking through the net. My heart sped up, my blood pumped, my eyes bulged. Had we done it?? We HAD done it! I barely noticed the crowd stampede onto the court like a herd of wild animals being released. At that moment I wasn't just thinking about "the shot": it was the win. The team win. We remained undefeated! Although 5-1 was an incredible record, to me, 6-0 just had a better ring to it. A ring as sweet as the crowd chanting my name, which I could hear in rhythm to the pounding of my own heart.