My Last Five Minutes by Peter Way
I watched in horror as the big guy moved into position and took the shot, knocking James to the floor. The shot was good. James had been hit in the middle of the chest before he fell. I held my breath as I watched James lying there on the floor. It was all I could do to stay where I was. But then, like some kind of superman, James rolled over and smiled. It turned out the shot was not good as the big guy had performed a foul act first. The opposition was going to have to work harder to chalk up another one on the scoresheet.
I asked James if he was ok. He smiled again, nodded and indicating with hand gestures, told me he was fine.
Right, I said to myself, now it’s our turn.
My team knew what to do and quickly moved into their positions, each one ready to take the shot if they got their chance. The opposition looked about wildly, wondering where the shot would come from. My team was patient, just as I told them to be. They moved around, looking for the best opportunity and then it was there.
From the left, I saw Ben ‘Flem’ Flemming make his move. He penetrated fearlessly, moved right inside up to the target and took his shot. But he was off balance in the end and the shot missed.
The opposition saw a chance at a quick shot and moved fast. But we were faster. My team got into their defensive positions before the opposition could get a shot off. Another sign from them that told me that we had them rattled.
Intercept! Paul has done it again and he sees his opening, the chance of a quick shot. Paul moves fast, gets into the right place for a nice clean shot and shoots.
Where did that defender come from!
Paul got the shot off just before the defender got there… was it on target… yes it was!!!
I ask for a quick strategy meeting and my troops all come in for the talk.
“Let’s change things up a bit,” I say. “We have them off balance. They appear to be rushing and only one of them appears to have any control. James, I’ll swap with you, have a quick rest. Lachie, take over for Josh. Jake, you’re in for Ben N. All right guys, time is on our side, let’s rattle their cages some more. Let’s man up and see if we can pressure them more. I’ve got the big guy, if you get the chance ‘Flem’, back me up, especially if he looks like taking a shot. Let’s go!”
I watch the team as we move back into the battlefield. Each one knows what to do. We haven’t been together that long, but each one has learned their role and how to rely on each other to perform theirs. Ben and Paul have been great additions but I know that their time with us is coming to an end. I would love them to stay but they are only “on loan” from another team.
‘Flem’ is a natural and his shots rarely miss. His flexibility and desire to attack is a real asset.
Paul has strength and great timing. He’s not afraid to penetrate or take a long shot if required.
Jake is the newest to all of this and he learns quickly but still needs reminding of what he needs to do. He has potential so I know if he sticks with it, it will become second nature.
Scott is quick and has great skill; his shots rarely miss the target.
James has a quick mind and knows how to get into the best defensive positions.
Lachie has great instincts for where to be but needs a little more aggression at times.
Josh is a great asset in defence. His smaller stature lulls the opposition into not jumping as high as they could. It’s then that his vertical leap surprises them and he manages to wrest control from their grasp. He also has quick hands and can come up with a steal when least expected.
Ben N is a surprise too. Another battler that joins us for short spurts, as a result it takes a few weeks for him to regain his senses for what to do but once he does, it’s like he never left. He has a great vertical leap and a surprising long shot that often comes when we need it the most.
Then there’s me, Peter. I have had the privilege of leading this team for a few years now. But this time it’s different, I’ve been given the green light by the powers that be, to not only coach but to also join this team on the battlefield. Not every week but whenever we face this particular foe. I enjoy the challenge and the experience of suiting up again, especially with this group of young men, is a special memory that I will carry for a long time. What do I bring to the team? Experience. I started like them and have kept at it over the years. In fact, I’ve done this for more years than these young men have been alive. That’s why I’m the coach.
Anyway, back to the job at hand, “time to focus Peter,” I tell myself. I can’t help but smile as I watch Paul walk calmly up to the shooting line. The opposition looks put out, having to just stand there and watch as Paul lines up for an uncontested shot. I watch Paul go through his pre-shot motions and then he lines it up and shoots. It’s good! Right on target. Chalk another one up for Paul, whose all smiles as he runs back for defence.
Here we go now, the oppositions coming. I move towards the big guy, trying to rattle his concentration more. I have a hand up, in the passing lane, trying to prevent him from getting an opportunity. The rest of the team is doing similar things, it’s not an easy match up since they are taller than us, but we have the skills that they are lacking.
I’m proud of this bunch.
I see the opposition looking for the big guy to make a move. I can also feel his frustration over me. Suddenly ‘Flem’ is there too, helping me. He has great instincts for this, he knew they were looking for the big guy to shoot.
“C’mon, I’ve got two on me, one of you should be free,” the big guy calls out, frustration oozing out through his tone.
Then it’s there, the opportunity we were waiting for, that we prepared for. They have lost control and Jake has seized it.
I move into position to help him while Paul and Lachie head for their offensive positions. Ben has moved into an opening to help Jake too. Jake has seen me and dishes the control into my lap.
Just what I wanted, now it’s my turn.
Ben and Jake move into position ahead of me. I scope out the options, looking for the best shot. Will it be mine? Or should I give it to Lachie, out on the side with no one guarding him, but then Paul moves and I smile on the inside. His movement has created just what I wanted… a screen. I move past Paul, losing my defender in the screen, the next defender approaches from the right so I fake a pass to his right and he falls for it, leaving me wide open for a shot. I look around quickly and see that ‘Flem’ has read my play and is moving in to back me up if I miss. I jump, eyes now on the target, and shoot a gentle ten foot floater.
“Swish” is the sound it makes as it drops into the target. The shot is… sweet!
That was the proverbial nail in the coffin.
The opposition is reeling. They are six down with less than a minute to go.
My team move back into defensive mode and we manage to slow them down even though they are trying to race into position to get another shot off. Al that is, except the big guy. He appears to have given up and is moving slowly into position.
The rest of the opposition have rushed and in the process ‘dropped the ball’ but lucky for them, we were unable to take control and they got it back.
Their only choice is a long shot.
They missed the target completely. Jake seizes his opportunity and takes hold.
They try to steal it back again but it’s another foul act. Jake smiles as he is sent to the line. The opposition has committed too many foul acts this time and Jake is rewarded with two free shots.
I check the clock, twelve seconds remaining. I whisper to Jake as he walks passed me, “Take your time!”
The clock continues to tick away so I start to shake hands with the opposition, saying things like, “Good game,” and “Well played.” However, the big guy is too upset and refuses to shake hands with anyone.
Unfortunately, Jake misses his shots.
The buzzer goes and the results are verified by the officials. They confirm what we already knew… we won.