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King of the Court - 3

by yosh


Chapter 3

True Strength

Fernando Lopez, 11, 6th grade, Regional Basketball Tournament

"Listen, Fernando," says Horace, "The only way to truly win is to be strong."

"I know," Fernando replies, devastated. The game is already over. The seventh and eighth graders dominated the game again. He is starting to regret joining the basketball team. He was told that Pennel Creek had quite a strong basketball team, and he hoped that in joining it, he could improve and learn from older students.

However, the reality was very different from what he imagined. The team is simply a disaster. In fact, they have the ability and talent, but they’re too lazy to use it. Fernando hates words like 'talent' and 'naturals'. And the people he hates the most are people who think they can do anything as long as they are naturals with talent.

Fernando hates seeing his teammates like that. He knows them so well. He knows that they are better than that, but for some reason, they can’t get themselves serious. All of them are amazing at basketball, but they don't have the drive to get better.

Horace is his best friend and a fellow benchwarmer for Pennel Creek. Like Fernando, he is not very skilled and didn't play very much. The two of them want to put in the effort, but practices are more like hangouts and everything is up to them and their own practice.

Fernando despises the way that Pennel Creek plays basketball. He doesn’t have very much talent. He is athletic and tall, but can’t play as well as the older players.

"If you don't get strong, you can't stop your opponents," Horace explains. The parents in the bleachers are beginning to disperse. The game is over, after all. Fernando feels bad for the parents who had to watch their children get demolished like that.

Fernando shrugs, "As strong as the eighth graders?"

"No!" Horace cries, "They're not strong at all! They crushed this team even more so than the last ones. That isn't strength! We need to stop this!"

"Oh, look, the game is over," Fernando says emotionlessly as he starts walking over to the opposing team's bench.

The opponents from the school called Marble Creek are listening to their coach talk.

Fernando pauses for a moment. He stares at each of the player's faces, and most of them are frozen in dark expressions. They look terrible, dismayed. They are destroyed. He can’t fathom the reason why his teammates would do this. Crushing dreams. Breaking hearts. His teammates aren’t just mean, they are villains.

Is this really the only way to win? thinks Fernando in disbelief.

Fernando says meaningfully, as loud as possible so that they can hear him, "I'm sorry."

But no one can.

His voice is drowned out by the raucous cheering of his upperclassmen.

[Pennel Creek Middle School - Advancing - Round 1]

. . .

Fernando Lopez, 12, 7th grade, January 23

His practice is so rhythmic, that Fernando often finds himself not paying attention as he shoots the ball, almost falling asleep.

He’ll grab a ball, jump, then shoot it. Oftentimes, it misses, but that doesn't matter. What is important is the refining of his form. That’s what Horace told him anyway.

If he ever wants to be able to compete at the level of ‘talent’, he knows he will have to practice.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.

Fernando practices endlessly. His teammates and friends began to grow concerned for his health. He doesn’t mind them. Even his parents start to talk to him about it.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.

After a month of strenuous practice, he starts to notice some differences. He has become a very talented shooter. His form is virtually perfect, his range extends to the three-point line, and after his growth spurt, his height allows him to shoot past most blockers.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.

Nevertheless, Fernando does not slow his practice very much. Instead, he abandons other extracurricular activities to improve his sleep schedule.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.

His range surpasses the three-point line, making him a very valuable asset to Pennel Creek. Fernando practices every day of the week. He neglects studies, and spends his days in solitude, perfecting his basketball.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.

Everything is perfect. Fernando is the ultimate sharpshooter. He is on a different level than other players, and he is strong enough to destroy teams however he likes. His range is approximately five feet behind the three-point line.

Yet something feels strange. Something feels different

. . .

Fernando Lopez, 13, 8th grade, August 29

After Fernando arrives in eighth grade, he finds solace in basketball. Simply put, he realizes that others could play how they wanted, but if they don’t play their best, they would be crushed. Fernando's perfect accuracy is more than enough to destroy his opponents.

"I hope those idiots can see me now," Fernando mutters, thinking about the previous players for Pennel Creek who never played seriously. Fernando knows he is getting better. Many teammates praise him as a genius. He is the captain, and he practically roles over the team. He likes to consider himself a benevolent king. Whoever has the highest chance of scoring should be the one to shoot. That person is usually Fernando. His teammates don’t really like being ruled over that much, but he knows they will get used to it.

They praise him a lot. He especially likes it when they praise him.

That makes him feel good.

The only thing that bugs him is that Horace no longer shows up to practice as often. For some reason, he seems to be lacking in his love for basketball.

The day before, Fernando asked Horace why he wasn't coming to practice, and Horace simply replied that he 'wasn't strong enough'.

. . .

Fernando Lopez, 13, 8th grade, November 25

"We have a practice match against Marble Creek this week," says Fernando.

Interestingly enough, Horace is present that day. He usually shows up once or twice a month, but Fernando allows it because Horace is a good friend.

"Fernando!" Horace calls out to him after practice.

"What is it?" he replies, walking over to him. It is about half an hour after practice. To Fernando's surprise, Horace is shooting. Horace usually never shows up, much less practices extra.

Horace pauses and says slowly, "Are you sure you want to play Marble Creek?"

"Yes," Fernando replies, "What about it?"

Fernando starts picking up stray basketballs and placing them on the rack. Lots of the players didn’t even bother to clean up after themselves. Fernando decides he will reprimand them next practice.

"You don't remember?" Horace stares at him with an astonished look. Generally, Fernando does not accept this kind of attitude from his teammates, but since Horace doesn’t talk to him that much anymore, he doesn’t mind.

"Remember what?"

Horace bites his lip in frustration, "No . . . why did you of all people have to turn out like this?"

"Turn out like what?" Fernando asks, still unsure of what Horace is trying to tell him, and starting to get annoyed from the insubordination.

"I'm sorry, Fernando," Horace turns away in the direction of the door. He grabs his backpack and starts to run.

Fernando blinks, running after him "Sorry for what?"

"The only way to win is to be strong," says Horace sadly as he nears the door, "You know that, don't you?"

Fernando chases after him, confused.

Horace opens the door and stops. He places the ball on the ground and stares at Fernando with the same look that he used to have, years before. The same helpless and disappointed look that Fernando himself had.

"Fernando . . . I don't want to play with someone like that again," he says, pointing to the second-place banner on the gym wall. The banner that was won two years before, back when the oppressive upperclassmen were still around. Horace slams the door closed, leaving Fernando alone in the gym. Fernando gives off a low growl. He has no idea what is going on, or why Horace is mad at him, but he does know one thing:

It must have been the fault of Marble Creek Middle School.

. . .

If there was something that Spencer hadn't done, there wasn't. From extracurriculars to electives, Spencer had already done everything.

Engrossed in soccer from a young age, Spencer thought he would become a professional soccer player, until second grade, of course. He found the new love of his life: tennis.

He didn't last a year before golf tried to sneak in, although he only played golf fervently for a month before quitting. His father often bugged him about his frequent changes in his 'favorite sport', but Spencer couldn't help it.

As fifth grade arrived, Spencer joined the local swim team. He adored the community and the friends that he made, but waking up early for practice and swim meets eventually pushed him away from the sport.

After entering middle school— Marble Creek, to be exact —Spencer tried out for the school football team, hoping to learn a few things.

By then, however, he was too old to be a beginner in the sport, and he didn’t make the tryouts.

On the first week of school, however, one of his less friendly classmates, Colin, asked him if he played basketball. Colin had wanted to practice with someone before the season started, and Spencer agreed. A novice of novices, Spencer could barely touch the ball without sending it out of bounds, but Colin was a great friend and opponent, so Spencer decided he would try out for the basketball team, thinking it to be the same as the other sports that he quickly lost interest in. But for him, the team was unlike any other. The only reason they let him on was probably because they were low on players. Nevertheless, they accepted him and helped him grow.

He loved this team. He loves this team. They can't lose; not yet.

"Spencer!" shouts Alex. His voice seems distant as if he's standing on the other side of the court. Wait . . . he is standing on the other side of the court, realizes Spencer, a little too late.

Alex had just hurled a speeding pass at him for a fast break. Spencer gives a little shriek, turning awkwardly in the direction of the ball. However, he does not move fast enough. The ball is about one foot away before he realizes that he isn't going to catch it. He can't let it pass him, however, so he stops it instead.

With his face.

Sprawled on the floor, Spencer groans, clutching his forehead. What surprises him more is how fast Alex could throw the ball. The captain is a lot stronger than he looks. A few players can barely hide their laughter. Some others get down on one knee for respect. Others stop moving to stare. The scene is so chaotic that even the referee is a bit confused at what to do.

In the confusion, Dwayne picks up the basketball and shoots a lay-up. Since the ball didn't roll out of bounds after hitting Spencer's face, technically it was still in play. Spencer gets up and gives Dwayne an impressed look. In recent practices, he’s started to look up to and admire the short, but vicious center.

"Nice pass," says Dwayne, with no hint of malice or humor in his voice.

The referee seems a bit worried, but when Spencer gets back up again, he resumes the game.

Spencer gets up, rubbing his forehead miserably. When he looks up, Coach Miller is face-palming, and Chris, who is standing nearby, isn’t even attempting to hide his laughter.

9-2

The score is starting to look good for Marble Creek. But it doesn't look like that for long.



. . .

Alex grows red with embarrassment. How could I hit a teammate in the face like that?

Chris sneaks up on Alex and imitates the robotic voice of a video game, "Headshot!"

Alex sticks a tongue at him, "Shut up, noodles."

Sometimes, Alex can't tell if Chris is genuinely mean or not. It seems more like being rude is simply part of Chris' personality.

Logan, the player with glasses, has the ball again. As their point guard, it makes sense for Pennel Creek to choose Logan to have the ball, but Alex still wonders why Fernando doesn't start with the ball. Fernando's height, dribbling, and shooting skill make him a very formidable guard.

Just like before, Logan sends the ball to the left side, instead of to Fernando on the right. However, the left side is the side where Spencer is defending in the zone defense, and despite being a newbie, Spencer is very energetic on defense. The attacker has nowhere to go and kicks it back to Logan, who reluctantly passes it to Fernando.

Fernando catches the ball, almost gracefully. Majestically.

Alex gets right in front of Fernando, but Fernando's height advantage lets him shoot with ease. He barely even has time to get his hand up anywhere near the ball. Alex doesn't even dare to look at the goal, because he knew the result even before the ball touched Fernando's hands.

"Splash."

Alex groans.

"This'll be harder than I thought," he mutters.

Fernando, who appears to have heard him, replies, "Should we aim for a hundred or two hundred points?"

Shooting guards. So annoying, Alex grumbles to himself, comparing Fernando with Chris. He walks over to the baseline, and Dwayne throws it in.

12-2

When Alex reaches the defender, he does a quick spin move, and the defender is left in the dust. Alex keeps moving forward when two more defenders reach him. He waits for them to get close, and quickly bounce-passes to Chris.

Chris gets the ball, thankfully backs up behind the three-point line, and takes a shot. Please, make it, Alex prays. He knows that this shot, if it’s made, will have the potential to built momentum to bring back points.

It misses.

With a clang, it bounces off the back rim, in a high arc up into the sky. Alex rushes forward to get a rebound but gets blocked by Fernando. However, Fernando is about to get the back, but Dwayne squirms his way in front and gets it instead.

Alex laughs, impressed, "Nice rebound!"

Dwayne jumps up again, and shoots another lay-up, making the point.

12-4

Dwayne performs amazingly well getting rebounds and points alike, but Pennel Creek returns the favor with constant shots from Fernando. Every single shot that he shoots makes its mark, which angers Alex because, with Dwayne's rebounding ability, it would be a lot easier for Marble Creek if Fernando would just miss shots.

Marble Creek, of course, gets their own points, though they're only two-pointers. Chris can't make a single shot. Alex already knew that Dwayne was good at rebounds, but he had no idea it would be of this caliber.

By the end of the first quarter, the score is 18-8, with Marble Creek Trailing behind by ten points.

Coach Miller doesn’t give them much instruction, but he does tell Alex to keep on guarding Fernando the best he can.

The next time Fernando gets the ball, Alex moves forward immediately, getting right in his face. Fernando pivots backward and fakes a shot. Alex nearly falls for it, but he stays close. Confident in his vertical, Alex watches Fernando closely, almost daring him to shoot.

Fernando suddenly brushes past Alex and dribbles toward the corner. One of his teammates screens for Fernando, and Alex can’t get close. The person left guarding Fernando is, unfortunately, Dwayne.

Alex doesn’t even want to watch that interaction. Fernando effortlessly shoots a three-pointer from right outside the three-point line, and it goes in, just like the others.

After a few more of Fernando’s possessions, Alex realizes the giant’s plan. Fernando will shoot if Alex is too far, and will brush past him if he gets too close.

Alex is unable to figure out how to counter this, and when the referee blows the whistle for half-time, the score is 30-14.

"All right!" Coach claps his hands together, "We're gonna go with a triangle and two defense. A triangle and two is practically a box and one, but instead, you have three people back. Then, the other two guard some godly player."

"And we all know who that is," says Chris, rolling his eyes.

"Marble Creek!" Coach Miller prompts.

With a vigor almost tenfold of the chant before, they shout with all their might, shaking the foundations of the gym, and rocking the bleachers and benches alike.

"Fight!"


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Sat Jul 01, 2023 6:40 pm
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OrabellaAvenue wrote a review...



Hi! This is a random weirdo here to review.

Fernando... wow... I didn't really expect that. His mental health really has been affected. Everything has to be perfect. In a way, he's kinda similar to Alex. Alex is obsessed with winning, and Fernando seems to be obsessed with perfectionism, but only in basketball. They both don't care about school. But everything in their lives s basketball. Though Fernando doesn't seem to care all that much. He knows he's gonna win, and he doesn't care about it anymore.

Your characters are just so good! If I was gonna try to write about basketball and have it be called "King of the Court" without reading this, it would be very boring, and the characters would be quite dull. "Once upon a time, there was a basketball team called Blue Heights because that was the name of their school and so they were named after their school. They were going to play a team called Forest School and they were also named after their school. There were some shots into the hoop and then some dribbling and..." you get the idea. Not good. And though I usually don't care about sports or anything, I've loved the idea from the beginning, and I still love it.

And your pacing is excellent! Nothing's rushed except parts that aren't as important to the story, so they don't need as much attention. And everything that is important, you slow down so that we get to see the characters and what they're feeling, and their points of view. The action builds tension, and you're just dying to know what happens next from word to word.

As with the chapters before, I'm shouting for joy at how well they're written and how much I need to read more!

Well done, and keep writing!




yosh says...


thank u for the rev!! <33333

Your characters are just so good! If I was gonna try to write about basketball and have it be called "King of the Court" without reading this, it would be very boring, and the characters would be quite dull. "Once upon a time, there was a basketball team called Blue Heights because that was the name of their school and so they were named after their school. They were going to play a team called Forest School and they were also named after their school. There were some shots into the hoop and then some dribbling and..." you get the idea. Not good. And though I usually don't care about sports or anything, I've loved the idea from the beginning, and I still love it.


you never know until you try! Like for me, I never knew I'd love writing a basketball novel this much.

-yosh



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Sun Mar 26, 2023 8:07 pm
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RandomTalks wrote a review...



Hey yosh!

RandomTalks back with another review!

I really did not expect us to continue with the match even with the end of this chapter. The fact that its still going on gives me some hope that maybe something will coming out of this. And looking at the scoreboard right now, Marble Creek can use anything they get!

Fernando says meaningfully, as loud as possible so that they can hear him, "I'm sorry."


I loved the fact that you actually took the chance to explore Fernando's story. The fact that Marble Creek is in perilous waters now (in terms of score) made me think that you would perhaps explore the backstory of some member from the team and have that motivation drive them towards making a miraculous recovery. However, it was a pleasant surprise to see you divert from that pattern and focus on the antagonist who does not even share many scenes in real time in this chapter.

Seeing a more humane side of Fernando threw me off for a moment and its a testimony to your ability of bringing characters to life that I am already feeling all too familiar with a character who was only introduced midway in the previous chapter. Still, the fact that Fernando had a best friend and that he was capable of feeling despondent and insignificant shed a completely different light on his character. Especially because I could actually feel his conflict and his frustration with the upperclassmen. When he silently whispered "I'm sorry," to the team - that scene was so impactful and I was instantly more involved in this character's story as I wanted to find out what made him go from that to this.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.


^ I love how this sections reads more like the onset of an obsession. The repetition of this line and Fernando's single minded focus was the first sign that something was different. And I really liked how subtly you conveyed that transition through the passage of time. I do think that you could also explore why Fernando loves the sport. We learnt that he joined the team because he wanted to learn from the adults, but I really think it would help us understand him better as a person if we know why he chose basketball to center all his devotion on.

He is the captain, and he practically roles over the team.


^ I think you meant 'rule' here instead of 'role'.

In this section, I felt as though your narration became a little more direct and transparent. It does not have the reflective tone of the first section where we grow attached to Fernando because we know now that he thinks, feels and gets affected. Nor does it have the seriousness of the second section which conveys a new turn for his character. Instead, it feels as though this part is making direct statements to us and we are just expected to follow. As a result, I found it a little difficult to relate to your narration here.

The next section completely makes up for it though. The fact that even after he became who he is today, Fernando cared enough about Horace to actually follow him and hear him out suggests that he is capable of caring for other people. It also leaves their friendship at a conflicting point as we don't know enough to guess what caused the rift between them. I would like to say that it was Fernando's change, but I felt as though Horace had also been going through something completely separate of his own. His saying he quit basketball because he wasn't 'strong enough' was just another ambiguous answer that made me more curious about him and his supposed role in Fernando's life.

Chris sneaks up on Alex and imitates the robotic voice of a video game, "Headshot!"

I am always amazed at how successfully you manage to balance plot and narration and still integrate little moments of character evolution/bonding in the moment of a highly intense game. Just when I feel a little overwhelmed by the technicalities of the game, you break up the tension with a humorous moment or a meaningful exchange between the team members. That's something I really appreciate in your writing.

I don't have much to say about the next sections as we mostly follow the game there. As badly as they are losing, I still feel as though they are doing better than that cycle of failures in the prologue, where Alex's team hardly got play, let alone have a shot at winning. Therefore, I am excited to see where this goes and what it means for the characters as individuals and for the team as a whole.

Keep writing and have a great day/night!

~ RandomTalks




yosh says...


Aight here we go again

I do think that you could also explore why Fernando loves the sport. We learnt that he joined the team because he wanted to learn from the adults, but I really think it would help us understand him better as a person if we know why he chose basketball to center all his devotion on.


Hmmmm that is a good point I didn't give much thought to that but I'd assume he just took it up cause he was good at it/he liked it/he was athletic enough. Eventually, the things that he saw made him to become who he is today.

^ I think you meant 'rule' here instead of 'role'.


WHOOPS I think you are correct lmao

In this section, I felt as though your narration became a little more direct and transparent. It does not have the reflective tone of the first section where we grow attached to Fernando because we know now that he thinks, feels and gets affected. Nor does it have the seriousness of the second section which conveys a new turn for his character. Instead, it feels as though this part is making direct statements to us and we are just expected to follow. As a result, I found it a little difficult to relate to your narration here.


ah yeah well heres the thing. It was pretty much there as a placeholder to be honest

that little section in between is kind of to show the passage of time between his first flashback and his last flashback

Just when I feel a little overwhelmed by the technicalities of the game, you break up the tension with a humorous moment or a meaningful exchange between the team members. That's something I really appreciate in your writing.


I'm glad you were able to understand it well. Also, I'd like to add, if you're cool with it, what kind of technicalities were you overwhelmed with? I'd love to know so I can improve on this specific point because I believe I mentioned this before, but I really get worried about confusing non-bb players

thanks for the review!
*sigh* now onto the next one


-yosh



RandomTalks says...


As someone whose only experience with basketball is dribbling and shooting and repeatedly missing the net, I have no idea what a rebound, layup or a three-pointer is. But I think, in this chapter simply the fact that the game was covered for an overwhelmingly major part of it got me focusing on the words extra hard to make sure I don't miss out or misunderstand anything. However, you have nothing to worry about here, since, liked I mentioned, you diffused the situation very well with the help of small exchanges between the characters or their internal monologues.



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Sun Mar 26, 2023 7:02 pm
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Euphory wrote a review...



Hi yosh! <3 this review is brought to you by The Crimson Critics!

OMG THINGS HAVE GOTTEN INTENSE
FOR STARTERS, the score??!! It's insane how you keep raising the stakes for our team, and keep taking the scoreboard to newer heights, I mean, 30-14?!?!?! God that's quite the number!

Suffice to say, the pacing is still incredible, and I'm absolutely invested in Marble Creek's victory, even if it's just a local practice match! I'm also beginning to wonder if this story is only going to revolve around this match between Marble Creek and Pennel Creek, or if it's going to take us all the way to the Regionals!

Regarding the characters, I'M SO HAPPY to see more screentime for Spencer! I did express my confusion regarding his character in the last chapter, but getting to see more of him and his motivations this time around has really solidified him to me as an active character in this story!

Not to mention the glimpse into Fernando's past! I think you did an excellent job diving into his thought processes, and what has made him the way he is now! (And Horace, despite his exceedingly small role in the story, packs a punch! -> again, a testament to how well you have been developing these characters in the span of a few, deeply explored moments!)

Another thing I enjoyed is the recurring motif regarding the idea of the strongest ones being winners - a nice touch to the entire thing!

There isn't a whole lot of critiques I have regarding this chapter, so I'm all good to go for the next one! If this review was helpful, you can always request more reviews for any of your works from Euphoria's Coffeehouse ! <333 and great work with your story!




yosh says...


Thank you sm for the review!



yosh says...


HERE WE GO I'm HERE FOR A REPLY EUPH

I mean, 30-14?!?!?! God that's quite the number!


Euph my sweet summer child

these little bozos are playing a middle school game

in kurokos basketball it literally gets to the 200s lol

but yeah the score rn is gonna be a challenge to get back ngl

Regarding the characters, I'M SO HAPPY to see more screentime for Spencer! I did express my confusion regarding his character in the last chapter, but getting to see more of him and his motivations this time around has really solidified him to me as an active character in this story!


Good to hear! Spencer might be the dark horse here lol WHO KNOWS

Another thing I enjoyed is the recurring motif regarding the idea of the strongest ones being winners - a nice touch to the entire thing!


yes yes yes we'll definitely see more of that. it's like the entire theme of the story so watch out ahaha

tysm for the rev

also i think i WILL req a rev

-yosh



Euphory says...


YOU'RE WELCOME
The 200s ?!?!?!?! Okay, wow. 30-14 is tame in comparison.
YES LOVE THE IDEA OF SPENCER KICKING BUTT BY THE END




Everything has a consequence and every consequence leads to death.
— kattee