As we got off the bus, I look ahead at the stadium where the first game of the Summer league was about to commence.
The Hawkettes walk in line as we enter the Stadium and make way towards the locker rooms.
Señora was in the lead and many from other schools stop to stare at our Captain. I'm walking In-between Cassy and Nora.
As we enter the locker room, Coach barges in and shuts the door behind her.
"Okay girls, listen up. The first game of the season, let the Hawkettes show how it's done. Cassandra will be starting as always. Let's get going!" She claps her hand sending a thundering noise in the pin-drop silent room. That was all she said. No motivational speech or whatever crap. She's always down to business.
As coach finishes, everyone straightens up puffing their chests out.
I pull out my uniform top from inside my bag. I got the uniform packet two days back and I've been staring at it constantly learning every corner. Every design. Pattern. Stitch.
The Hawkettes uniform.
The red, white and blue would surely stand out among all other schools.
I put on my uniform on top of my camisole and take off the track bottom since I'm already wearing my shorts inside. Tying my shoelaces I leave the locker with my team.
Cassandra throws an arm around my shoulder, bending down to reach my ear.
"Keep yourself ready Judy. You'll be substituted into the game for sure." She says to me with a grin. The others around us give a firm nod and I could feel my insides tense with excitement.
I've been playing basketball since I was six, but never in public. Always on the street court with the other kids. Street basketball. This was going to be my first school match.
We enter the gym and I look to the audience trying to find my dad. He said he would surely come. I couldn't find the familiar locks of brown hair that was so similar to mine.
Oh well. Guess he's running late.
The buzzer rings and the top five of both teams make it inside the court.
And the game begins.
Cassandra gets the ball at the tip-off and passes it to Tori who expertly dribbles the ball from one side of the court to the other.
I knew Tori was the point guard. The position I was yearning for. But seeing her play on a real match, made me realize just how good she was.
Senora was never behind and always supported Tori in her attacks. Another position I wanted. To be Senora's partner.
My feet were itching to run inside and grab the ball. I've never stayed on the sidelines. This was a first and it was infuriating. I kept tapping on the polished floor with the soles of my shoes to keep me distracted. Every point scored, every pass and the shouts made me go insane.
"You're restless." Nora seated next to me holding a bottle of water, was looking at me.
I increase the tapping, staring at the game intently.
The opposing team scores three points.
"Oh c'mon! That was an easy steal!" I yell, but the scream from the audience died out my voice.
"Cassy had two blocking her Judy." Reem, one of the top five playing small forward says as she continues staring at the game and doesn't spare me a glance.
She was substituted out and Kaera, the sub Captain had taken her place.
"Kaera was open! Cassy could have easily faked a shot and back up to pass to Kaera who had the perfect position for shooting." I say having analyzed the game and everyone's position. Reem turns to look at me while I notice that it's not just her, but the coach as well. She's reading me. I can tell with the way her gaze runs through me.
"You have a sharp view." The coach says as she turns back to the game.
I've always had a wide view. It's not something new. But the coach saying it to me made me feel extra confident.
The Hawkettes and the opposing team Blakers were clashing so strongly. 109-115 with the Blakers in the lead. only the quarter of the match to go. Eight minutes to go with the clock ticking away.
The ball goes to the guard of the other team and she scores effortlessly. Kaera gets the ball as it drops down the basket but soon two opponents press her. And the ball is stolen.
"Steal the ball back and back tip it to Señora. She's open." I didn't mean to yell but I couldn't just keep quiet.
The people at the scores table looked my way and I quickly shut up.
But Kaera had heard it loud and clear.
She hits the ball from the side and the opponent loses her touch, clearing a path for Kaera to steal it and Señora is in front to catch the ball as it's passed to her.
She shoots and she scores.
I pump my fists and cheer for the team as Señora turns to give me a thumbs up.
111 to 115. We were down by four-point. Three minutes passed and my teammates on the court were starting to really get under pressure.
I look at whoever it is that called to me and find Coach Harlot looking my way.
Only a nod.
That was all she gave me.
I get to my feet and stretch. It was finally my moment.
I go up to the score table to check-in.
The buzzer goes off.
Not for a timeout but for a substitute player to walk into court as Tori makes her way out.
"Go get them, girl." She whispers as she passes me patting my shoulder, sending an immense adrenaline rush in my blood.
A critical moment where a change in player was needed to help the flow of the game to fall in favor for the Hawkettes.
Taking a deep breath I step inside the sidelines of the court.
At once I could feel the change in atmosphere. Inside the court, the air felt different. The tension was high. My teammates looked at me with a faint smile. The opponent's who were giants compared to me, smirked my way as I joined my teammates.
The buzzer goes off once more to start the game that was paused.
I don't wait for an order. I've never really listened to them anyways. I play by my own rules.
And so I rush to my left side which was open except for the center player of the opposing team.
Senora's eyes follow me questioning as to what I was doing.
No one had seen it. But I saw it well before the change in players. The eye movements of the opponents.
I couldn't have guessed wrong. Couldn't have analyzed wrong.
The opposing center player hadn't scored at all throughout the game. She was like a pole just in the court to help block and pass.
But I know well than to judge a person. I wasn't going to ignore her just because she wasn't making flashy moves.
Because that was exactly what the opponents had planned.
The ball wheezes past me but I stretch my hands out and grab the ball before the other girl could.
She had no one blocking her. She was the perfect choice for the opponent's to get a shot and win the match.
Not if I can stop that.
The tall girl stares down at me not having expected that. The smirk she had when she saw me entering, fell replaced with a frown of confusion.
"Cassy!" I yell as I pass the ball to our own center player who was very much closer to the basket. She grabs the ball and jumps high enough to slam the ball into the basket.
The horn blares and the scoreboard changes to 112 to 115.
Three points to go.
My favorite number.
The ball rotates all around the court with either team not scoring. And the ball finally lands on my hands.
"SHOOT!" It was like the entire stadium was screaming. The noise so loud, it felt deafening.
A familiar voice was within the crowd bringing a grin to my face.
I had no one blocking me. The opponents underestimate me and I show them just how foolish they are looking down on Judith Drakeyer.
I flick my wrist back and arch my body, facing the basket straight on.
I quickly look at Cassy and then to a point in the center on the court. She catches my eye just before I look back at the basket.
I push the ball and it soars high and goes right into the hoop.
The cheers that follow are short-lived as the Captain of the Blakers grab the ball and run to the other side of the court to shoot.
She was on point and jumps and hits the ball hard and standing just a few steps away with a clear opening was Kaera our sweet sub Captain.
She catches the ball and looks at us wide-eyed.
She had not expected that coming.
And the buzzer goes off ending the game.
117 to 115.
The Hawkettes won with a two-point score.
The applause, the cheers, shouts were nothing compared to the excitement and happiness that was fired up inside me as my teammates ran up to hug me.
I was drowned by their bodies and a hand-pulled me out to save me from getting killed.
"Ava!" I say aloud as I find my best friend grinning at me from ear to ear.
"I knew it! I knew you could pull it off!" She was jumping like a kid at some amusement park.
She hugs me not minding the sweat.
"Judy let's go. Coach is waiting." It was Señora touching my shoulder. I wave at Ava and meet up with the rest and then walk in line back to the locker room.
"Girls, you did well." Coach's voice boomed inside the closed room. We all nodded with a smile. A grin in my case.
"But this is only the first match out of twenty-five matches. We have more to go, so keep your heads leveled up and play every game like it's the final." She advised and we all screamed "YES COACH!"
She gave everyone a pat on the shoulder. Her hand lingered on my shoulder a minute longer.
"Well done game-changer."
And she left the room leaving us to ourselves.
"Judy, what was THAT at the end?" Cassy says aloud her eyes gleaming. I stare at the excited giant wondering what she's saying.
"That eye contact. The way you pointed to a spot with your eye, and I just got it! Like my brain screamed at me to go stand where you pointed. And when I looked ahead, Kaera was clearly in view. Girl that was crazy!"
It was simple gameplay, so why is she acting so excited? I just knew where the ball would go and had Cassy stay in position to steal it. Cassy has a weird way of dashing the ball out of anyone's hand, and she did exactly that. According to my analysis, Kaera was open and as expected the ball went to her.
I give a shrug, unsure what else I'm to say or do. Cassy gives me a thundering pat on the back and walks off to join the other seniors.
I quickly change and then grab my bag to rush to where Ava was waiting for me.
"Bye girls," I shout at the ones behind me and run away not waiting for a reply.
I get back to the court, which was almost empty. It wasn't difficult to spot my best friend. But the one standing beside her is what made me lose balance and almost slip and fall on my butt.
What the hell is HE doing here?
"Judy!" Screaming my name and making heads turn, my best friend comes barreling towards me.
"Would you please stop screaming!" I say aloud but she just grins.
As the other person comes standing beside Ava, I look up to stare at the face. Olive green eyes stare back in awe.
"You certainly are one hell of a player Judith," Travis says with an awestruck expression.
This was the first time he's ever said my name.
"Thanks," I reply with a sheepish grin. Guess he's not so bad after all.
"Your dad was here until the game ended. But then he got a call and had to leave. He apologized Judy." Ava was trying to make me understand but I didn't need her to try. I would always understand my dad. The thought that he had come to my game when he was so busy made my heart swell.
I'll have to give him a tight choking hug when I get back home.
"You were amazing out there Judy. They're definitely going to put you more on the court now. You should have seen the excitement in the audience when you shot." Ava exclaims in wonder. She has always been way too excited whenever I play a game.
Travis stood doing nothing but nodding. When I looked up at him he gave me a smile. I remembered what happened at the street court and it made my face flush for no reason.
He frowns wondering just what the hell happened with this weird girl. I divert my gaze and concentrate on Ava trying my best not to look at him.
"Can we leave now?" Travis asks Ava and me. "It's starting to get uncomfortable." He finishes with scratching the back of his head awkwardly.
I follow his gaze and find a couple of girls gazing with hearts on their eyes at Travis. Some even looked hungry.
Like what the fuck?
Have they not seen a guy before?
"Let's go," I say aloud so those idiots could hear as well. They tear their gazes from him and lock their eyes on me, glaring daggers.
I give them all a pointed look. Some walk away feeling embarrassed.
Chuckling Travis grabs my bag off my shoulder and walks towards the exit. Ava follows behind, grabbing my hand and pulling me after her.
I look back at the basket, yearning to play another game so strongly on my mind and body.
One game down, twenty-four to go.