A/n: Here's another chapter! The tournament has started! How fitting that the action is beginning at our first double-digit chapter! Hope you enjoy! And as always, be brutally honest with me when you're reviewing, because I want to know where I can improve and work on! Also, I think this might be my longest chapter. There's a whole lot in it, but I hope it doesn't exhaust you guys!
P.S. By the way, I promise the next chapter will have art! (And I'm still working on the less dramatic, humorous one.)
"How many courts are here in total?" asks Dwayne after entering the huge building.
"Four official ones for our age-group," Jacob replies, "But there is one official full-size court, and two practice courts for our size. Total of seven courts. It is a basketball complex after all."
"But this building seems way too big for seven courts," Dwayne says as Jacob is handing some paperwork to a nice-looking man with a bushy moustache.
"There's more than just basketball courts here," Alex answers, still looking a little drowsy, "There's also the huge bleachers, a Food Court, an indoor gym, and a small loop to run on, the last two being used the least, and at the best quality, although the indoor gym is not as nicely organized."
"I thought this is a 'basketball' complex," Colin points out, "Why is there a gym and a track?"
"Some people who are more at the professional play here, so there is naturally a gym and a track to accommodate their needs," says Chris a matter-of-factly.
"Come on," Jacob says, moving towards a hallway, "You can start warming up at the courts!"
"All right!" Dwayne hops along, while the rest of them follow, and Alex lags behind.
When they arrive at the courts, Dwayne gasps at how big it is. It almost seems bigger than it looked like when he was outside.
The roof is super high, and the lights shine down at him like spotlights. There are four adjacent courts, all which are squeaky clean, much cleaner than the court at Marble Creek. The bleachers stretch out almost thrice as long as the actual courts stretch, boasting a huge crowd, still milling about.
"Why are there so many people here for a middle school tournament?" Chris wonders.
"The Middle School Basketball Tournament is a more popular attraction than you might realize," Jacob replies, "Younger kids aren't skilled enough to be interesting to watch. High schoolers are obsessed with dunking and tend to play more aggressively and straightforwardly, making them also not interesting to watch. College students and above are all very skilled and talented enough, but their games have admission fees."
"So . . . middle school is the best choice?" asks Spencer, putting a towel on his dirty blonde head.
"Yeah," Jacob places a clipboard on the bench.
"That means we've got the biggest crowd!" cheers Dwayne.
Chris harrumphs, "High school and college games are really interesting to watch, though."
"Shut up and warm up," Jacob scolds them, pointedly looking at Chris.
"We need to change into our uniforms first," argues Chris.
"Go do that then," says Jacob, sitting down on the bench.
"Come on guys," Chris grabs the purple jerseys and motions for the rest to follow. When they arrive in the locker rooms, everyone puts on the unforms in silence. However, Colin speaks up.
"Did you know that purple is the color of royalty?"
Dwayne shrugs, "I didn't know colors had any meaning."
Chris sighs, "Are you suggesting we are like kings or something?"
"The only one here who can rule the court like a king is Alex, but Alex is kind of semi-conscious right now," Spencer says, pointing at Alex, who is sloppily slipping on his uniform.
"Alex, are you okay?" Dwayne asks, and suddenly realizes that something is wrong.
"I'm good. Just tired," he replies.
Colin places a hand on Dwayne's shoulder and whispers, "Don't worry. He's fine."
Dwayne is a bit unsure, but he still nods. Colin is usually smart-ish. Sometimes. Possibly.
Everyone begins to warm up except for Alex, who just stretches a bit.
"Time to shake hands," says Jacob, "Captain? Go shake hands with their big guy and do the little captain-thing that you captains always do."
"Sure," Alex mumbles tiredly. He droopily shuffles over to the other captain. Alex shakes hands, does the little captain thing where he somehow strikes up idle conversation with the other captain, and tells everyone to get ready for the game to start.
"Alex. Are you okay?" asks Jacob, grabbing Alex's shoulders. Alex is turned towards Jacob, so no one can see what his expression is. However, Jacob seems to relax.
Everyone moves onto the court, and Dwayne hears a crowd for the first time.
A real audience.
Cheering. Maybe the crowd is only cheering for Saint Helena, but Dwayne can still feel the heat of the bystanders. He can feel the crowd radiating with power, stronger than anything he had ever felt before.
He smiles, "Guys. This might actually be pretty fun."
"All right. Chris, go do the tip-off," Alex says. Dwayne glares, but doesn't say anything. He won't let the mood of the cheering audience be ruined.
Chris walks into the center circle and looks up at the tallest player on the other team.
There is one huge player on their team with the number four on his jersey. The rest of them look generally normal, but another player, with number six, has a malicious look in his eye and a wide grin on his face.
"Guys," number six says, "Don't let them have fun."
And the game begins.
Their number four easily wins the tip-off, and the ball starts to go down to one of the other teams' players. However, number six steals the ball from his teammate. But that's not the most surprising part.
Because Dwayne saw how fast number six moved.
And no one moves that fast. No one but Alex.
Alex droopily jogs over to play defense, as the rest of the team sprints back. Number six darts forward with inhuman speed and practically moves through Chris. He does the same thing, but with Colin and Spencer.
Dwayne growls. Alex is behind him, but probably won't do much.
Number six moves to the left, then to the right. Dwayne turns his feet towards the right, as if he is about to jump towards the right.
Number six falls for his trap and turns back towards the left again, and that's when Dwayne sticks out his hand, and he can momentarily feel the ball. Before he can handle it, however, the ball is moved away again-- number six had gotten behind Dwayne with the ball.
And only Alex is in between.
Number six easily maneuvers around Alex, and Dwayne thinks all hope is lost. But Alex turns around and shoots his hand backward like a dart, poking the ball out of number six's grasp and out of bounds.
A backtip. Dwayne is perplexed. Is Alex just somehow preserving energy?
The game moves faster and faster. The other team begins to play aggresively forward.
"Defend against the press!" shouts Jacob, as Alex is slapping the ball away from an opponent.
"A press?" Spencer asks, "What's that?"
Dwayne doesn't have time to answer because he's too focused on preventing the ball from reaching Big Guy.
Dwayne knows the importance of Big Guy. Since Dwayne plays center himself, he knows how important the position itself is. If you have a good center, you have a good team. That number six may be a loose cannon with dangerous talent that can rival Alex's full power, but without a strong defender to have your back, a strong attacker is nearly useless.
After all, one shot can only at most make three points. It doesn't matter how pretty the shot is. Usually, it'll just be three points.
The number six, who's being guarded by Alex, is angrily dribbling back and forth. Even though it seems like Alex is sluggishly moving around, Alex somehow manages to block number six from getting past him.
Finally, number six breaks and makes the motion of preparing to throw a pass to Big Guy, and Dwayne knows it's his time to rule.
Sorry, Big Guy, Dwayne squats down, Because even though I'm not the King of the Court, I can still be the King of the Sky.
And Dwayne leaps upward, feeling the ball at his fingertips. Swiveling around so that he is between Big Guy and the ball, Dwayne slams onto the ground, holding the ball in his hand.
Dwayne knows Big Guy is furious, but Big Guy still managaes to remain calm.
"What are you doing, Ethan?" screams number six, darting past Alex. Big Guy, who is obviously the one named 'Ethan', tries to wrench the ball away from Dwayne, but he's called out for fouling.
Shreeeeeeeet! The whistle is blown, and the referee says, "Time out for Marble Creek!"
Dwayne looks at the bench, and sees that Jacob is staring at the court with a serious look on his face.
Dwayne walks up to Jacob, "What?"
"Get some water."
Everyone but Spencer and Alex is sweating and tired.
"Jacob, what happened?" Spencer asks, "Why are we coming off the court early?"
"I . . . really need to tell you guys something," says Jacob, "This team is . . . very, very strong."
"Yeah, we know that already," Chris rolls his eyes.
"No, you need to understand why they're strong. Look, their center, who is that number four named Ethan, is very powerful. His brother, who I assume is the one called Copeland, is the number six."
"Wait, where'd you come up with the name Copeland?" asks Alex.
"Apparently it's his last name, but I was chatting with their coach. He's pretty nice," Jacob shrugs, "But that's not important. Alex, you better get ready. I don't think you may survive if you push too hard."
Dwayne almost laughs. Alex definitely wasn't pushing hard at all!
"All right," Alex replies, with a new vigor in his eyes.
"Alex . . . were you faking being tired?" Chris asks, unsurprised.
". . . yeah," Alex admits, scratching his jet black hair.
Shreeeeeeeet! The whistle is blown again. Time to get back onto the court.
It's Saint Helena's ball first, and Ethan starts the ball. He passes it to Copeland, and Copeland shoots down the court like a bullet. Dwayne prepares himself and lowers his body, but then the ball disappears from Copeland's grasp.
Alex took it.
Faster than he ever was before, Alex speeds down the court twice as fast as Copeland did
And before Dwayne can blink, the ball is sailing through the hoop. [i]He did it again![/i]
The two other times Dwayne had seen Alex do that was when Alex was proving his skill to Dwayne at practice, and during the practice game against Pennel Creek.
The score is 2-0. Marble Creek is winning.
But just Alex is not enough. By half time, the only person on Marble Creek who is scoring is Alex. The other team is an extremely conditioned team with many substitutes.
Luckily, Marble Creek had trained for stamina, or the game would have been worse.
The score is 14-39. Marble Creek is losing.
Half-time is called, and everyone gets a full ten minute break.
"Dwayne," Alex puts a hand on Dwayne's shoulder, "I have a favor to ask of you."
Alex sighs, "I'm the offense of this team, but you'll have to be the defense."
"What do you mean?"
Alex breathes deeply, "That means I'll be playing extremely aggressively, and I'll need you to watch my back, or we'll lose. Can you do that?"
Dwayne doesn't even need to consider, "Of course I will. After all, I am the one and only best center in the whole wide universe!"