Can't win them all
Published 8:18 am Monday, December 22, 2008
By By Chandler Myers
It was a 7 p.m. tip off in late February, and two players were on the basketball team were out with the Flu, while one was running late. This left the Clay Cougars with four players to start and play a league tournament game.
A basketball team must have five players to make anything work. Those five players work together up and down the court, with one goal in mind and that is to win.
This night the Cougars had to borrow a fifth player from another team in order to start the game until their fifth player arrived.
The entire team consisted of six 13-year-olds and one 15-year-old, who played virtually every position on the court.
The young team played nine games in the regular season and finished 0-9 placing them as the lowest seed in the tournament. This matched them up with the regular season champions.
Two starters dropped off in the middle of the season, which made depth an issue heading into the tournament.
At the tip off, the Cougars’ opponents pulled out to a quick lead and pulled ahead in the first quarter by as much as 12 points.
The oldest player for the Cougars had attempted to lead all season, but with the youngest team in the league it was difficult to keep any game close.
He started the game slow, only scoring four points in the first two quarters. At halftime, the Cougars found themselves down 28-16 and looking for a miracle.
The 15-year-old leader of the Cougars knew what was needed for his team to come anywhere near a victory. He must step up and carry the team like he had attempted to do for nine games, but had failed each time.
With the start of the second half, the fifth player showed up for the Cougars relieving the interim player they had selected of any playing duties in the second half.
Immediately, the Cougars stepped up their play led by their eldest player.
He scored quick and often. He pulled down rebounds against players five and six inches taller and found ways to steal passes.
The leader did not miss a lay up, hit key free throws and knocked down a clutch three with a defender in his face that reduced the lead.
The Cougars cut the lead and tied the game 38-38 as the third quarter came to a close.
The momentum for both teams pushed back and forth with neither team giving ground as the score stayed knotted 46-46 halfway through the fourth quarter.
Another three by the 15-year-old high school sophomore gave the Cougars a 49-46 lead with three minutes left in the game.
The opponents would not be denied though as they went on a 6-0 run to take a 52-49 lead with just over a minute and a half on the clock.
Something happened to the Cougars that completely swung momentum away with one minute left in the game.
With just under a minute left in the game, No. 12, the leader of this team picked up his fifth and final foul. The player he fouled hit the free throw, and the opponents took a 53-49 lead.
After scoring four points in 16 minutes in the first-half, and not taking any plays off the whole game. The 15-year-old boy had scored 18 points in 15 minutes of play in the second-half, fouled out with 22 points, 10 rebounds and was forced to watch from the bench.
His team lost that night 55-49, and the pain of watching his team lose rather than being in the game is forever in his mind.
It took a long time before that kid stepped onto the court again, but the memories made on that hardwood floor make up for any of the losses.
Chandler Myers is sports editor of the Atmore Advance. He can be reached at 368-2123.