A/n: I finally have reached the point where I can't continue posting art along with the chapters. I honestly didn't expect to keep it up 'til Chapter 9! I will be posting art along with the chapters when I feel there's an important scene that needs to be described artistically, but other than that, enjoy! Also, for any readers that have been pulling along with me, thank you so much for supporting this! Love you all!
"No no no no no no!" Colin groans, resting his hands on his forehead in the universal 'giving-up' gesture, "Why?"
Dwayne sighs and collapses on the ground, "That's impossible! I didn't think we would lose this fast."
Alex shakes his head in a defeated tone, "Looks like it finally came to this. We messed up our last chance."
Even Chris seems to be disappointed, "If only we tried harder . . ."
"Guys!" Spencer interrupts, cutting them off with a scream, "I've got another quarter!"
"Yes!" they all cheer in unison. The five of them crowd around inside a Pac-Man booth located in an arcade. Their sorrow is instantly cured as Colin places the quarter in and starts playing. Spencer knows Colin is crazy good at this game. He even almost got on the leaderboard!
Boop. One of the Pac-Man lives end. Colin has a score of 550.
Boop. The second Pac-Man life ends. Colin has a score of 780.
Everyone is silent now. Colin might get on the leaderboard! He's representing Marble Creek in a Pac-Man game!
"Get over here," hisses Jacob, poking his head into the booth. Colin jumps, losing his final life. Boop.
"No!" cry Colin and Spencer. Alex and Chris blink in bewilderment. Dwayne literally starts sobbing.
"I said get over here," Jacob growls, "The tournament bracket is out!"
Suddenly, Pac-Man doesn't seem as important. The five of them scramble out of the booth over to Jacob.
Jacob is holding a paper in his hand, "Don't get too scared, but this is the team we're playing first."
Spencer is behind Chris, so he can't see the paper very clearly.
"S-sa. . . sant? sant H-h . . ." Spencer squints.
"Saint Helena," Colin trembles and clutches his head.
"Oh no," Chris sighs.
"We're gonna play against the second-best team in the region!" Alex cheers with an unhealthily exuberant look in his eye.
Everyone else on the team stares at him like he just ate a dead rat.
"Alex . . . can you hear yourself?" asks Chris, blinking.
"Why did it have to be Saint Helena?" cries Colin.
"Isn't this the team that we said wouldn't be a good idea to play in our first practice game because they're too good?" wonders Dwayne, who just like Alex, has an ecstatic look.
"Exactly! Can you change it, Jacob? Please?" Colin pleads.
Jacob sighs, "I can't do that. The bracket is out already. Feel lucky that Forton Middle isn't in our side of the bracket."
"That would be considerably worse," agrees Chris.
"How can we prepare?" Chris asks Jacob.
"That's the spirit! First, work on the things I told you," Jacob answers.
Spencer nods. He needs to work on being less stiff and more relaxed.
"Then, it's optimal to find at least one more player to play with you all. Without a sub, the teams you're playing against can just exhaust you," says Jacob.
"We could just train our stamina until that isn't needed," suggests Dwayne.
"I like that idea," Spencer offers.
"No! That's unneccessary! All you need to do is--," Jacob is cut off by Alex.
"Then we can surprise our opponents with our huge stamina!" Alex adds, nodding.
"That's impractical and unstrateg--"
"Added to the fact that Dwayne is short, teams will greatly underestimate us, and that will be their failure," says Chris philosophically.
"I'm not short!" growls Dwayne.
"Wait, you guys--" Jacob is then continuously cut off by Dwayne and Chris bickering about the former's height.
Spencer backs away. Dwayne and Chris are definitely the two hotheads on the team.
Alex sighs, which Spencer no longer finds unsurprising anymore, "I expect this will happen a lot more."
"I agree," Jacob chimes in.
"Let's start practicing then!" says Spencer, ready to start. Stamina training will be awesome!
The team practices and practices and practices. Day after day, the Marble Creek Basketball Team work their best to become the strongest team in the region. Spencer and Colin try to work on controlling their nervousness. Dwayne just tries to be able to jump higher, which literally has nothing to do with what Jacob said he should improve on. Chris works on his shooting, and Alex, of course, leads the team in stamina training.
And Jacob sits around complaining that there needs to be more members. But he also plans and arranges everything for the team, including renting the bus, preparing the paperwork, and managing the team as a whole, which Spencer finds particularly nice and helpful of him.
When Spencer asked Jacob why he was doing so much for them, Jacob just smiled, "You can call me Coach Jacob. That's my job. Also, Alex helps out a lot, so I'm not shouldering this alone."
Before long, the tournament rolled around the corner.
And Spencer decided he had his anxiety about forty percent under control.
Okay, maybe thirty percent.
"We'll still do this," he tells himself, meeting the rest of the team to get on the bus, which will take them to the official Tournament Stadium.
"Basketball has stadiums?" Dwayne inquires, poking Alex's shoulder. It's only after he says that when Dwayne realizes Alex was sleeping.
Alex glares, "They do. In fact, you might get to see it from far away. In the bleachers. Kicked off the team. When I find a new member." He then goes back to sleep.
"Not fair," Dwayne slinks into his seat, "Alex doesn't even snore!"
On cue, Alex begins to snore, and Dwayne groans, slinking further into his seat.
"Why'd you even ask that, though?" wonders Chris, "Did you think we'd play on an outdoor court?"
Dwayne shrugs, "I didn't think it would be ask large-scale as a stadium. Maybe like a school gym or something."
"Jokes on you," murmurs Colin, pointing out the window, "Cause that is definitely not a school gym."
The bus has stopped, and outside is a sign that says, Ryder Moore Basketball Complex.
And behind the sign is a monstrosity never seen before. A huge building, that's so wide Spencer swears it's as big as an airport, even though he's never seen an airport. There's beautiful glass windows on the walls, with immense crowds of people tumbling around inside. The building is wide, but also quite tall, ranging to almost three times the height of Spencer's house. It has a monolithic aura that almost dares Spencer, saying, Come in. Get lost within me. I dare you.
As the team gets closer to the complex, with Alex still very sleepy, Spencer finds himself staring up at the building. Its colossal roof and windows glares down at him. It's almost strangely majestic.
He quickly shakes away before he falls too far behind his team.
"This place," Spencer mumbles to himself, "Might be more different than we all imagined."
And whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, Spencer has yet to figure out.