"Okay," said Chief as our circle broke up. "I want the ball. Who's inbounding to me?"
I expected Valerie or Shawna. I totally did not expect what actually happened.
"Can I?" said Jeannie.
Chief was spinning the game ball on a finger. He let it drop into his hand. "Sure. Why not?" he offered her the ball and she took it.
By now the other team was lined up on-court, in their positions.
"Shawna," said Chief, signaling her over to Jeannie's side. She went, and he turned and stared at Valerie and me. "Well? Go!"
Ouch. I turned as we ran to see if Valerie looked as guilty as I felt, but she was smiling.
Jeannie looked to see if we were all ready, then smacked the ball- even though she didn't have to because we weren't lined up for an actual inbound play where we'd have to break. She inbounded it to Chief without anyone on the other team challenging.
Chief spun around and started doing some really fancy dribbling- even better than Alex's, or that's how it looked to me.
Pat ran up and covered him. Chief switched to his right hand, dribbled once more, and then fired the ball off to Shawna, still on Jeannie's side. Shawna swung around, dribbled back to her own side, and shot from the top corner of the key. Missed.
I ran in and reached for the rebound. Shawna got it first and put it up again. Right into the hoop.
Wash inbounded to Pat, who for some reason was standing way back by the middle of the court. He made another long pass to Kaden. I reached for it-
It slid through my hands. I couldn't keep them on it, it was way too hard a pass.
Kaden got it and put it up. Miss. We all flung ourselves into the key and grabbed for it at the same time.
It went out.
"Purple!" yelled Mr. Robbins.
Buzzer. The short one, though, which was just for subs.
I looked over at the scorers' table.
Jace, Mallory, Dillon, Rosie and Lee burst onto the court.
"Whoa! Hold up!" Mrs. Jennings said something to the alumni on our bench, and they jumped up to run out on the court too, waving us off.
Valerie, Shawna, Jeannie and I ran off. Chief stayed to give the ball to Jack.
When I got to the bench, Marlena was still sitting there.
I spun around as I sat down, wondering what was going on. Chief, still on court and standing out of bounds, inbounded to Jack. Jack dribbled a step or so until Chief got ahead and then passed back. Chief did the same for him.
Jack got the ball on the half-court line. He dribbled in and passed to Julie on the foul line before running in to stand under the hoop.
Julie made the obvious play- a pass back.
Jack was now right under the hoop, but Lee, Jace and Rosie had all closed in to block him off. He dribbled once, turned around, and passed hard out to Chief.
Chief took one step back to put himself outside the three-point arc, dribbled once more, and then let the ball fly. He didn't even jump.
The ball swished through the hoop.
Jace caught it and passed out to Mallory, who inbounded it back to him, but he didn't even make half-court before the buzzer.
Final score- 38-33. We had won.
Chief and Jack, who had already been running downcourt to head off the return play, changed course and purposely crashed into each other. "Two more? Two more?" Chief yelled, grabbing Jack by the shoulders.
Jack pounded him on the back. "How 'bout five more?!"
"Killed it!" Alex screamed as he joined them.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Kate. "We did it!" she yelled.
"Yeah!" I yelled back.
Then Julie tapped Kate on the shoulder and Kate spun around into a hug. "You should've shot!" said Kate. "You'd have totally made that one."
"Eh, who cares?" said Julie. "I wanted to make totally sure. I knew Jack wouldn't miss."
"So if you'd known he wasn't even going to shoot?" Marlena joined us.
The two of them grabbed her. "Why didn't you come in? You should've come in! You just totally wasted your chance, you could've shot it!"
"I could've have stayed out," said Julie. "Seriously. If you wanted someone to stay out so Cody could stay, it should've been me. I'm not as good as you."
"Yeah, but you can shoot."
That was when someone tapped my shoulder again. "Good game!" yelled Jeannie, giving me a hug.
I hugged back, until I finally realized Mr. Robbins was blowing his whistle at the top of his lungs. Oh, yeah- we had to line up and slap hands. Somehow I'd totally forgotten about that.
We all lined up. Jack and Alex and Chief, still standing in the center of the court, fake-wrestling, broke it up and came over to join us, arms slung around each other's shoulders.
We went down the line slapping hands. I tried to keep from smiling too much.
As soon as we got back to our bench, Julie yelled, "Powwow!"
Mrs. Jennings smiled. "Powwow?"
"Can we?" said Kate.
"Well… Well, sure!"
She led us over to the corner of the gym, where the alumni girls plopped themselves down on the floor right away. Jeannie and I looked at each other, shrugged at exactly the same time, and sat down too. Mrs. Jennings went over to our bench to pull over a chair.
"So," said Jack, sitting between Shawna and Jeannie, "what exactly are we doing? Anyone?"
"Powwow," said Shawna, as if that explained everything.
Kate looked at her, and then turned to Jack and explained, "It's what we always did after JV games. Which we thought of, because Mrs. Jennings's the coach. Was the coach." She talked fast after that one, as if she wished she hadn't said it. "We came over and sat in the corner, or in the locker room if we were at another school, and then she'd ask if we had anything to say, and then when we all said what we had to say about the game, she'd fill in anything we didn't say."
"Like what?" asked Chief, sitting next to Jack on the side Jeannie had been on. He still had the ball in his hands, or maybe a different ball, and was tossing it back and forth.
Alex hovered over the two of them instead of sitting down at all.
"Like… I don't know. Like anything you had to say about it."
Mrs. Jennings stuck the chair into the circle in the very back of the corner, which turned out to be between Shawna and Marlena. "So," she said. "First of all, does anyone have anything to say?"
Jack kept his face totally straight and serious. "Yeah," he said, "I do. We completely rock."
We all looked at him.
He shrugged. "That's all."
"Well, yeah, I think that goes without saying," said Marlena. "Although I would have felt a lot better if we would've had a liiittle more room to breathe at the end."
"Hey, we came through," said Jack.
"I did trust you guys to keep it under control, by the way," said Mrs. Jennings. "I wouldn't have put these guys in if Brad- if Mr. Johnson hadn't put his starters back in."
No one said anything for a little bit- just nodded at that. Kate kept nodding for a long time. "We did good," she said.
"Good teamwork," I added.
For a second I wished I didn't, because everyone turned and looked at me, but then Marlena said, "Yeah, it was."
"From our lovely former Boys' Team of Awesome," said Shawna, putting her arm around Jack and waving her other hand at Chief.
"Huh?" Jeannie asked.
"Boys' team made diocesan champions when Cody and Jack were on it," Mrs. Jennings explained.
Cody. I blinked. Oh. Chief's real name. Huh.
I decided I liked Chief better.
Jack held out a hand and Chief smacked it.
"Yeah," said Julie softly. "We were good."
"We were very good," said Mrs. Jennings with a smile.
Chief jumped up suddenly. "Hey, what time is it?"
Mrs. Jennings checked her watch. "About… almost ten to four."
Chief leaped to his feet. "I gotta go… Crap…" He ran over to the bench, grabbed his stuff, and was halfway across the court to the bleachers before any of us had time to say anything.
Julie sat up a little from the wall she'd been leaning against. "If we're kind of done here," she said hesitantly, "I think I'd better go too. I think we were going out to dinner or something."
"Yeah," said Jeannie, sliding her feet out from under her. "Me too."
Alex got up too, but none of them got anywhere before Marlena said bossily, "Wait one minute!"
We waited. She had sounded scary enough that I really didn't want to go anywhere.
"Say it again," she ordered Jack. "And say it right this time!"
Marlena mimicked Jack's bored expression from before. "We are totally awesome."
Jack grinned. "Oh, we're more than awesome," he said. "We are…" And he trailed off there. "Oh, no, wait, better not. There's grade school kids here."
Mrs. Jennings laughed and then swatted him over the head when he got up to walk away.
"Is he always that crazy?" I asked Shawna as we went back over to the bench.
"Oh, yeah," she said. "He's the biggest pain ever." But she was smiling.
I nodded and started grabbing my stuff, digging through my bag for my sweatpants. I felt like I had something to say to her- or maybe I just felt like I should say something. As I was pulling on my sweatpants, I asked, "Hey, do you still play basketball?"
That wasn't Shawna's voice. When I looked up I saw that she was halfway across the court with her stuff already. Julie was the one two seats down the bench from me, pulling on her coat.
"I wasn't all that good," she added when she saw I was looking at her.
"Yeah, you were. You were fine," said Marlena next to her.
"No, I wasn't."
"Yeah, you were. You were fine."
"I was not good enough to play in high school."
"Well, now you're not, you quit," Marlena said bluntly. She whipped her bag over her shoulder. "Anyway, see you guys. Rachie, I'll probably be at the Athletic Banquet 'cause of Sara."
That was her sister. She was in seventh grade.
"Yeah, me too," said Valerie, walking over to join her. "Let's go, Mar. Good game, Rachel."
"Uh-huh," I mumbled. They walked off. When I got my shoes laced I stood up and grabbed my bag. "Okay. Um. Bye, Julie."
She looked at me, but she didn't say goodbye back. "You like basketball?"
"Sure," I said. I didn't know what else to say.
"You going to Star for high school, you think?"
"Yeah. I don't really have a choice even if I didn't want to."
She smiled for a second.
I started to walk away.
"Hey!" When I turned back around, she added, "When you're a freshman, try out for the basketball team."
She looked, not at me, sort of over my head. "Well," she said, more softly, "why not?"
And there you go, although of course there are a lot more ways the game could have ended. So here's the question... anyone know which of these I consider the 'real' ending? (It happens to be the one I like best, obvious as that may seem.)