Chapter 29 The Dreamers
I met Sergeant Jenkins three blocks from Beaupre Park and he gave me the old tricycle he had saved from when his son, Jeremy, was three years old. It was still in excellent condition for something over twenty years old.
"Sergeant Jenkins," I remarked in a surprised tone. "The bike looks almost brand new. This is awfully nice of you to give away your son's tricycle. This must mean a lot to you if you've kept it all these years."
"Bob, it's all right," replied Jenkins. "If some kid can get some use out of it now, that is better than waiting for what might never be. Go ahead, take it, and get to the game. We've got stuff to do."
I took the tricycle and headed off down the street to Beaupre. I hoped that Dwight liked the bike and that no one was offended by the gift. Sometimes pride can be a problem. I put his faith in that all would turn out O.K.
When Dwight saw me coming he took off running in my direction. His eyes were as big as saucers. He must have thought it was Christmas day. I placed in on the asphalt and placed Dwight in the seat. Dwight took off toward his Grandmother as if he was born on the bike. She bent over at the knees to catch him as he forgot to slow down and almost ran her over.
"This was very nice of you" said Esther. "Dwight hasn't been this happy in months. Now he can ride with the other children who have bikes, too."
She reached over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you," she said again.
"You're very welcome," I said blushingly. "It's a gift from a friend of mine. I'll tell you about him someday. Maybe you'll even get to meet him. I hope so; I think you would like him."
"I hope so, too," she replied. "I'm sure I will."
"Hey, man, nice wheels for my kid," said Mookie as he walked over to greet me. "You're all right for a cracker," he added as he slapped me on the back. "Come on, we've got a game to play."
They took off and began lay-up warm-up drills with alternating sides shooting and rebounding. This lasted for about twenty minutes with Coach McKay breaking them up with the starting five to begin free-lance shooting while the rest rebounded. The last fifteen minutes everyone was shooting. Coach called them all over with five minutes before game time. The officials were standing across court at center. They were ready to go.
"O.K. men," said McKay. "Could we at least try some of our set plays, if only for the benefit of Mr. Lollar, here, and could we at least TRY and play some defense so that were not totally out of the game by half time? Let's go, give it up."
The players put there right hands into the center of the players circle and gave a "whoop" as they broke out onto the court. McKay looked at me.
I wish for once they would listen and just try some of what I show them. They do have some talent, just not enough to play one-on-one all night."
"Maybe tonight's the night, Coach," I said, trying to keep a positive spin on tonight’s game. "Maybe they will surprise you."
"It would be that," said McKay. "A big surprise."
The game began with the opposing dragons winning the tip, but as they tried to work the ball up court too quickly, Mookie stole a long side line pass and hit Marvin in full stride for an easy two points and the early lead. The crowd leaped to its' feet with excitement.
The dragons missed their first three attempts at baskets as the Knights were perfect, breaking out to early eight to nothing lead and the Dragons coach calling time out, throwing a towel down on the pavement in disgust. The Knights and their fans were reeling from excitement. After all, the Dragons were leading the league at twenty wins and only two losses.
Coach McKay reminded them not to do too much too soon. Keep looking for the open shot. There would be no need to crush anything the rest of the half. Let the Dragons feel the pressure to catch up. He reminded the Knights that defense wins games more than offense.
The Knights continued their assault on the Dragons. I entered the game with eight minutes left in the half and had the crowd and the dragons mesmerized with my passing and ball handling. I caused three Dragon players to loose their dribble and added two steals of inbound passes. I took only one shot, a three-pointer, which I made, but added five assists. The Knights closed out the half on fire with a lead of forty-eight to twenty-six.
The crowd couldn't believe it. Quite frankly neither could coach McKay. He walked over to the team as it cooled down at half-time. He was afraid to say anything, not wanting to jinx the team in any way. He just kind of stood there dumb-founded.
"Hey, Coach," said Mookie. "Say something. You look like you've seen a ghost or something," he added, smiling.
"Ghost nothing," said McKay. "Did you see that team out there, and where in the heck have you guys been?"
"Very funny, Coach," said Marvin. "We just decided to close out the season with a bang," he added.
"That sounds about right," I added. "This was nothing. Wait 'til the Dragons see us come out the first three minutes of the second half."
The team all looked at me like he was nuts. They may have thought I was, but I knew better. They were all wondering how they could play any better than they did the first half.
"What you talkin 'bout, cracker," said Marvin. "You been smokin some strange stuff before the game, or what?"
"No, not me," I said. "The way great teams put away their opponents is EARLY. We should put on full court pressure on defense and fast-break our offense for the first three minutes of the second half. Whatever plans they are making for a high percentage, patient offense, they will go out the window."
"If they stay as cold as they were the first half we could reel off another ten points before they know what hit them. If that happens they will be on their heals the rest of the night. They will never catch us as WE become patient and work the clock down," I conclude.
"Coach," said Mookie. "Makes sense to me. What do you say?"
"Sounds good to me to," said McKay. "You must work the press hard and be ready to intercept slopping, court-edge passes like you did to open the game. If they beat us down the court we will be the ones with egg on our faces, not them. O.K. Let's go and get loose for the second half.
Remember, if you don't have a good shot, kick it back out. That's partially how you did so well the first half. You guys shot over eighty percent for the half. Not too shabby," finished McKay.
The crowd cheered as the Knights retook the court for warm-ups. That never happened before. They all smiled at each other. They liked it.
The Dragons were warming up at the other end. They took turns looking at the Knights, most seemed intent on eyeballing Bob. They were probably wondering where this "Cracker" came from, anyway.
The second half began like I hoped with the Dragons unprepared for the full-court pressure they were seeing. The first seven times resulted in with either turn-overs or steals by the Knights. The additional fourteen points put the Knights up Sixty-four to twenty-six and another Dragon time out. The crowd was delirious with joy and amazement. I opened the second half on the court to lead the pressure and sank two three point shot that hit nothing but net and sent the crowd buzzing. One I made with a Dragon player draped all over me, but not foul was called.
I hoped that the second half was not going to find the Dragons taking out their frustration with a physical, nasty second half game. I was hoping to get out of this game with no trouble. That was not to be. I was soon to find out that these games were more than just games, to some.