فصل 12

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فصل 12

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chapter twelve

Ricki’s Long Shot

Four weeks later the basketball championship starts. The boys from Howard High are in the gym practicing for their first game on Saturday.

Ricki is back! It’s his first practice since the accident. He wants Coach Bergman to choose him to play on Saturday. He tries to run fast but his leg hurts a bit.

“Take it easy, Anderson!” shouts Coach Bergman. “Don’t force your leg. We need you for the game on Saturday night!”

Ricki is pleased. He is going to play in the game! He works hard during practice. He shoots well, he plays intelligently in the practice game, he plays well with the other players. After practice, he and Tony walk to the showers.

“You played great tonight, Ricki,” says Tony. “If you play like that on Saturday, Redwood High doesn’t have a chance!”

Coach Bergman comes into the locker room to talk to Ricki. “Anderson,” he says, “I think you’re ready to play in a real match. I want you there on Saturday. You and Caruso are a great duo!”

“Thanks, Coach, that’s fantastic!” replies Ricki.

“Oh, and Ricki, I’m sorry for what happened to you and Tony. Caplin and the others were really out of control but they’re going to be punished. I hope now they understand their behavior was very wrong. You can’t become a good basketball player by threatening other players or hurting them. You and Tony are not only better players but you’re better sportsmen than they are.”

“Thanks, Coach,” says Tony. “We’re going to work hard. We appreciate that you chose us to be on the team, even if we’re juniors,” says Tony sincerely.

“Okay, boys. Show me I was right - win the match against Redwood High on Saturday!” laughs Coach Bergman.

It’s Saturday night and the arena is full. There are a lot of people watching the game. The band is playing loud music and the cheerleaders are dancing with their pompoms. The two teams run onto the court. They practice shooting and throwing the ball. Then the buzzer sounds and the game begins. Coach Bergman calls his players into a group.

“Well, guys, this is our first game of the year. Redwood has a good team. It’s going to be a tough match. Do your best.”

All the players nod. They join hands in a circle and shout, “Go, go, go! Fly high, Howard Hawks!!!”

The crowd jumps to its feet. Everyone is clapping and shouting, “Go Hawks!” Some people wave flags with pictures of hawks on them. The team feels the energy of the crowd. They are excited and tense. They want to win.

At half time, the score is 46-40 for Redwood. Both teams are playing very well. At the end of the second half the score is even at 63-63. There are only 15 seconds left. The crowd is wild with excitement. Coach Bergman calls a timeout.

“Okay, boys. We only have one more shot. Anderson, do you want to take the shot?”

“You bet, Coach,” Ricki replies.

“Okay, then. Do all of you remember the set-up?”

“Yes, Coach,” the players say. The buzzer sounds. They go back onto the court.

Tony passes the ball to Anthony who throws it to Don. Don dodges two Redwood players and passes to Ricki. Ricki jumps, takes aim quickly and throws the ball at the basket. Is the shot too short? He’s still a long way from the basket. It doesn’t go in. Ricki’s heart sinks but the referee is blowing his whistle. Ricki has two free shots!

He goes to the free-throw line. He takes aim and shoots. The hall hits the basket but it doesn’t go in. He misses the shot!

“I have to make this second shot,” he thinks to himself. “It’s our last chance!”

This is the longest shot of his life. He takes a deep breath, fixes his eye on the basket, and shoots. The hall goes around the edge of the basket twice. He thinks, “Go in, please go in!” Then, the ball drops - it’s in! Ricki scores! The crowd goes crazy! The Hawks win the game by one point!

The players carry Ricki on their shoulders around the arena and the crowd shouts and cheers. He sees his parents standing, waving to him - they are very proud. He sees Stacy jumping and cheering and Trish next to her. He knows that this is the happiest moment of his life. After all the difficulties he had before this game, now he knows it was worth it - the day he played the long shot.

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