"Who rocks the house?!"

Eighth Grade Rec. Varsity teams versus alumni.

"The Comets rock the house!"

I thought I wasn't going to play at all.

"And when they rock the house-"

Yeah. I was wrong.

"They rock it all the way down! Who rocks the house?! The Comets rock the house! And when they rock the house they rock it all the way, all the way, down. Who rocks the house?! The Comets rock the house!"

The cheerleaders were still screaming, but to me it was kind of background noise. I was leaning forward, watching the game.

At the moment it was the good people in- for the eighth-and-seventh-grade team it was the eighth graders plus Rosie from seventh, and for our team it was the best of the alumni, which was Kate, Alex and Julie from last year, Jack from the year before, and Marlena from the year before that. We had 28 points, the other team had 23. It was the fourth quarter, six minutes left, which meant that in two minutes, Jeannie and I and the other alumni were in.

Really I think the only reason Jeannie and I were playing at all- I mean, we were the six graders, we weren't even on Varsity- was to even out the teams. For the season, all our school basketball teams were combined with the teams from St. David, since their teams and our teams would all be too small to play alone. But for Eighth Grade Rec, it was just our school. There were ten total Varsity, and we got eight alumni to come. That meant the alumni team would be short two.

So it was Jeannie and me. The only St. Lucy's girls on the St. David-St. Lucy JV Girls team, who, honestly, played way less than the girls from St. David's. And we were now supposed to play against seventh and eighth graders, on a shift with a high school junior and two high school sophomores.

At least I hadn't screwed up anything too bad. It turned out it was easy enough- just pass the ball back to whoever passed it to you, and you didn't have to do a thing.

So, two minutes until I had to do it again. On the court now, our team had the ball. Jack, actually, he was point guard. He dribbled in place a little bit, looking.

Marlena popped free from Rosie, who was watching her, and held out her hands. Jack passed to her- no, wait, he faked it. He dribbled around and shot a layup.

Bang! Miss.

Kate and Alex collided reaching for the rebound. Jace, who's in eighth grade, stole the ball, raced down the court and shot. Miss. But then Lee caught the rebound and put it up easy. Score. 28-25.

Alex got to the rebound first, ran out of bounds, and passed in to Jack. Jack gave about three dribbles and pitched it up to Kate. She was nowhere near ready, and she dropped it. Julie dropped to the floor, managed to pull it off Dillon, couldn't get up, and threw the ball straight up in the air. Lee and Kate ended up fighting over it- really fighting. Yanking on it.

Which was funny, because Lee and Kate are, like, best friends.

Finally Mr. Robbins- Jack and Pat's dad- whistled. "Purple," he said, tossing the ball to Jack.

"This ref is biased!" yelled a voice. I looked at the bleachers and laughed, because it was Mr. Wiseman, Lee's dad. And you have to understand, Lee's family and Jack's are pretty much just like one family. They are really that close. So Mr. Wiseman was just being a pain.

Mr. Robbins shook his head and turned back around to the game. Kate, who now had the ball, passed it in to Jack, who passed straight over to Alex. Alex did some fancy dribbling stuff, showing off and trying to wear out Jace, who was shadowing him. Jace finally lunged at the ball, and Alex leaned back and tossed the ball over to Marlena. She caught it and shot. Miss.

I felt bad. Or not really bad, I guess…

Here's the thing. Marlena was kind of a legend at St. Lucy. She was in every single club and on most of the teams. She played Cinderella in the school play in eighth grade and sang gorgeously, even though no one ever heard her sing before that. The teachers still showed around some of her projects, and she had been out of some of their classes for more than five years. And everybody always said she was the friendliest person ever.

The thing was, I really kind of wished she'd notice me. I mean… I don't know. She was out of the school before I was in the 'middle school' over in the other building, where I was now, so I barely even knew her, except for the stories. It was like if Taylor Swift or someone showed up at the mall. You'd just want her to notice you. And kind of hope a little bit that she did a good job singing.

So anyway, that's why I was kind of upset Marlena missed. Especially when Mallory snagged the rebound and dribbled up the court. She walked it down real slow, for some reason, so everyone had a chance to get set up before she did anything. Then she passed off to Dillon, and ran over to take his spot.

Pass, pass, pass. No one even took a shot for the longest time. They had to be planning something. I wished I could somehow tell my team that. Maybe if I thought it really hard…

They're going to do something, they're going to do something, they're going to do something…

Lee got the ball under the hoop, and Julie and Marlena closed in to block her. She spun around and snapped a pass out to Mallory, who had slid down into the very corner of the court. She caught it and jumped.

Swish. 28-28 tie. She'd made a three.

Chief muttered something next to me. Actually, I heard exactly what he mumbled, I'm just not allowed to repeat it.

"What?" Shawna whispered from his other side.

"When'd Mal learn to shoot those?"

Shawna slapped him on the knee. "While we were off being big bad-" a word I'm also not allowed to say was tacked on the end of that one- "high schoolers."

Chief just shook his head.

His name wasn't actually Chief. I just forgot what it was, and Jack called him Chief. I wasn't entirely sure why, but...

Our team was passing the ball around down at our end of the court. Jack gave a real nice pass to Julie, who took a dribble and step back and shot. Miss.

Marlena caught the rebound and put it back up. Miss.

Jack swooped in and got her rebound over Jace and Lee's heads. Miss.

This time Rosie, on the other team, got it. She dribbled partway down the court, realized Jack was right with her, and bounce-passed around him to Jace. Jace caught it, turned around practically right into Alex. He backed off, dribbling, then tried to copy one of Alex's fancy cha-cha moves- and tripped over the ball and his own feet.

Alex stole the ball, got downcourt two steps ahead of everyone else, and jumped for a layup.

Miss.

Mrs. Jennings leaped to her feet. "Time!" she yelled.

We'd decided each team got three one-minute timeouts, so she didn't have to call length. The five of us who had been on the bench clumped around her, and the five who had been on the court ran over to join us.

"Okay." She glanced over at the clock and then waved in the direction of the bench. "My starters, out. Thank you very much, good game."

"Hey, wait a minute!" Alex burst out. "We still have time!"

Mrs. Jennings frowned and looked at the clock. "You have two seconds left until four minutes."

"So?"

"We agreed to swap at four minutes. We have swapped every quarter at four minutes. It is two seconds until four minutes now."

"I want my two seconds!" said Alex.

Jack laughed and slapped him on the back.

Mrs. Jennings looked at them a minute. "Okay," she said, "you guys want to do this?"

"Yeah," said all five of them.

"Come on," Julie added. "It's the last time I will ever play basketball, probably."

Mrs. Jennings rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Okay. Fine. But you're all out at the first break."

Instantly all five of them grinned, and started shifting from foot to foot eagerly.

"We're switching to a box and one," said Mrs. Jennings. "Everyone know what that is?"

Everyone nodded but Jeannie and me.

"Fine, we'll get you later," she aid to us. "Alex, you're the one. On Jace. And when you guys go in, it's you," she said to the Chief. "On their point guard."

My dad sounded the buzzer.

"Hands in," said Mrs. Jennings.

We all put them in. "Same offense?" asked Julie.

"Yeah," answered Alex.

"All right," said Jack. "Break on 'two seconds'."

The starters laughed.

Jack moved his hand to the top of the pile. "Two, three."

"Two seconds!"

We broke up. The alumni went back out.

Kate passed the ball in to Alex. Alex passed it to Jack. Jack snapped it across the court to Marlena. Marlena swung it back up to Jack, and he shot.

Swish.

"I love that sound," whispered Valerie, down the bench from me.

30-28.

Rosie grabbed the ball and tossed it to Jace, who was already waiting out of bounds. Jace passed it in to Mallory, who passed it back. As soon as it was in his hands, Alex was on him. He forced Jace to run along the edge of the court until the ball finally went out. It had bounced off Alex's foot. I scooped it up when it got to me and was still holding it when Mrs. Jennings said, "Subs."

My dad hit the buzzer. The alumni from the court came over and sat down. Chief, Shawna, Jeannie, Valerie, and I got up. "Whose ball?" Chief asked Mr. Robbins.

"It's gold."

Chief snapped his fingers like Swiper the Fox and got in place to block the inbound instead.

Someone grabbed me by the shoulders from behind. "Box and one," said Jack's voice. "You just play it like you're in a two-one-two. Only difference is that Chief's not in the middle, he'll play man-to-man."

Chief was looking at me. Jack let go with a little push. When I turned around to look at him as I jogged to my place, he called, "Just in case no one told you."

I got in position, then looked around real fast. Valerie was on the other side of the court, even with me. Shawna was guarding in front of me, and Jeannie was the fourth corner. For the other team, Kaden was closest to me. Drew was closest to Valerie, Wash was closest to Shawna.

Pat was their point guard. He passed in to Bree. Bree stepped straight over and tried a three-pointer herself. She was a little short- but not by much. I tried to get the rebound, but Kaden got in front of me and he was too tall. I bet they put him where I was on purpose. Told him to just set up wherever I was guarding. Like a man-to-man offense or something.

Kaden put the ball back up, but Valerie was there by now and jumped, blocking him. He missed. She got the rebound and passed out to Shawna. Shawna dribbled halfway down the court and passed to Chief. He shot and missed. By then the first few people from the other team were already down there- I was barely at half-court- and Wash got the rebound and passed back to Pat, who delivered a pass to Kaden, who shot. Miss.

Shawna arrived in time to catch the rebound and start back down the court. I turned back around and started down the court again.

And again. And again. Basically the same thing just repeated itself over and over for the next two minutes. Shot. Miss. Rebound. Everybody turn around and run back down the court again for the next shot-miss-rebound. I was getting tired, and I was getting tired of not even touching the ball. On the other hand, those passes did look pretty hard… And I sure did not want to drop one, how stupid can you get…

When the clock got under 2:00, we were at the other team's end of the court, and they were doing the pass-around-in-a-circle thing again. Every time the ball came to Kaden I got between him and the hoop, but he never tried to shoot, he just passed it back or on to someone else.

If this was like last time, someone was going to shoot a three, but who?

Pat got the ball. I shifted up a little, following the ball, like you're supposed to in a zone defense. He passed to Kaden. Kaden passed to Bree, who was standing just out by the three-point arc.

If you could draw out zones on the floor, she would be pretty much standing right where Shawna's met mine, but I was pretty sure she was in Shawna's. I stayed on Kaden.

Bree dribbled one step back, squared to the hoop, and shot.

The ball swished through the hoop.

Oh, shoot. And I did not mean the basketball.

30-33. Could anyone on our team even make threes? I mean, I guessed Chief and Shawna and Valerie probably could, but...

Valerie got the ball as soon as it fell through the hoop. She tossed it to Shawna, out of bounds, who inbounded it to Chief. He looked up and saw Jeannie in front of him, then I guess changed his mind and kept dribbling.

I was way too far back to be involved at all.

Chief ended up under the hoop, aimed...lowered the ball and passed to Jeannie. She shot.

It banged off the backboard.

There was a loud groan from the fans.

"Good shot, Jeannie!" yelled Marlena from the bench.

"Keep shooting!" Jack joined in. "Good shot! Keep shooting!"

Chief got the rebound and put it up. Miss. Pat got his rebound and started back down the court.

More back-and-forth. I was totally worn out by now, but I also really, really wanted to get the ball. I was so behind all the time, I didn't have a single chance.

Pass, pass, pass. We were on defense again at the other team's end. Chief was guarding Pat when he turned, dribbled, looked over at Bree...and passed the ball to Wash, way over on his other side.

Chief and Shawna were still covering Bree. Jeannie wasn't ready.

Wash shot. It was beautiful, right from his fingertips to the hoop.

It bounced off the back of the rim.

Jeannie got it. Passed it up to Chief, who passed it to Valerie. She stopped at the foul line and shot.

Swished it. 33-31.

"Time!" yelled Mrs. Jennings.

I barely managed to run to the bench. The starters jumped to their feet, and Marlena shoved a water bottle at me.

I stared at it. "This isn't mine."

"Yeah," she said impatiently, undoing the lid so I could drink straight from the bottle. "I don't know which is yours, so here's mine, 'cause you definitely need a drink."

I was too thirsty to argue. I took a sip as we gathered around Mrs. Jennings.

"Okay," she said, looking at the clock. I looked too. Somehow I hadn't realized we had less than a minute left. "Okay. We have the ball. All we need is one shot, one basket, and then a nothing for the other team. Someone shoot- make it, please- and then just press them until the buzzer."

"We're not going back in?" said Alex, looking amazed- and not in a good way.

"No, you aren't. Fair is fair- we said last four minutes would be these guys, we're not cheating. Everyone ready?"

Marlena stuck her hand in. Jeannie, Shawna, Valerie, Julie, Kate and I added ours. Chief and Jack looked at each other, then both grabbed Alex's hand and added it to the pile, leaving their hands on top of it.

We all squeezed in. Jack looked around at us. "Good luck, guys," he said, right about when he was looking at me. Then he lowered his voice. "Loud as you can, guys, ready?" We nodded. "Breaking on 'two more'."

We all grinned.

"Two, three."

We all punched our hands high. "Two more!"