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Taking the basketball from the referee in my raw, steamy hands, I felt the gym getting chillier when I stood still. This was the very first time so many people were depending on me—l wasn't used to it. My face, blood-red after running and jumping for an exceptionally long time, had broken out into a cold sweat, as had the rest of my body. Funny; I had been scorching hot a few seconds before. With veins throbbing violently in my throat, my eyes darted down to the flaming orange ball that I held in my shaky hands. I wanted it to stay there perpetually, never to leave and try its luck making it into the hoop. I had never really paid attention to all the billions of tiny little bumps which coated it. Today, they were starting to make me feel especially dizzy.

It seemed like an eternity for everyone to get lined up, but at last, they did. Anxiously, my gaze lifted up toward my teammates' faces. Unmistakably written all over was a mixture of hope and belief. I was hypnotized by their eyes, waiting eagerly for the moment that would come soon. Too soon, if you ask me. I wasn't sure I was ready. It was only one shot, and no more—no second chance. I gulped as these thoughts rushed through my head like an express train, one after another, moving so rapidly they seemed like a blur. My coach's eyes were fixed on me, like a hawk watching its prey's each and every move. Her clipboard in hand and whistle around her strong neck, she didn't seem to be distracted by anything, as if in a trance. She bit her lip and appeared to be waiting with hopes rising in her heart.

Basketball Free-Throw girl throwing basketball
After our team had come this far, the least I could do was attempt to win us this game

Instantly, all the moisture drained away from my throat as I caught a glimpse of my opponent; the girl who had been watching me all throughout the game like a bloodthirsty wolf. As hard as I tried, I could not tear my eyes away from her. Even though she wore a blinding white shirt like the others on her team, she stood out—at least to me. Her vicious sapphire eyes had sparks of ice dancing in them, and were as frosty as the expression on her face. A chill slithered over me, raising goosebumps on my legs and arms, and I shivered as I tried to gain control of my body again.

The soft, whispery voices of the crowd above were echoing through my head. I began to feel dazed, and felt like pinching myself with my clammy hands to make sure that this wasn't a dream. No, a feeling making me this apprehensive could only come in real life. The basketball now seemed ponderous in my weak hands, so I gripped it firmer to make sure it wouldn't fall and cause a scene.

At last, I knew the time was right. I couldn't stall any longer, no matter how much I wished to. This one shot was worth a thousand words to me . . . How much I always wanted to be the one actually helping my team, not just running around trying to catch the rebounds, which I never really succeeded in. Always, a longer arm would shoot up in front of me and grab it for her own. But now it was my turn. I felt the power that the others had, but not the courage.

I gripped the glowing ball harder and let it go, waiting for it to hit the ground and bounce. BOOM!!! It made such a noise, it seemed like the world had awakened from the dead. I did it once more, and got into the shooting position, trying not to tremble.

Suddenly, I realized something. The basket seemed smaller, farther away. My arms seemed to weaken, giving up on me. I wasn't sure I could throw the ball that far. I began to wonder how all the other players had made it. What was the difference between them and me? They were all brave enough to at least try, my mind said, and if they were, so are you. I had to agree. After our team had come this far, the least I could do was attempt to win us this game. I did my best to balance myself on my insecure knees, and jump, throwing the glistening orange ball with all my might as far and as high as I could manage . . .

Basketball Free-Throw lnci Atrek
Inci Atrek, 11
Sunnyvale, California

Basketball Free-Throw Fraser Poorman
Fraser Poorman, 9
Weston, Florida