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A note from TheMagnificentOne

Note: If you read any of my other chapters before August 15th, please go back and re-read them before continuing to this chapter. I've decided to re-write them, and though the re-writes don't affect the overall narrative, there are changes that some may find important. Thank you to all that have stuck with this story so far, I'm grateful for every single one of you

The whistle blew and the start of the second half of the game was underway. The Guardian fans chanted loudly as Cheng brought up the ball for their team, Daryll standing at the top of the three-point line, waiting in his defensive set. Khris had an uneasy feeling because Tyrone held the ball almost every possession, but suddenly the offence of the team was different. Everyone on the Guardian’s team was moving around, setting screens constantly, except for Tyrone. He simply stood in the corner, as if he wasn’t going to take part in the offence.

 

Kory watched from the side, with Manny sitting next to him with a smile. Both of them kept a close eye on Tyrell, knowing that he upgraded his game, to the point that he needed to be watched even on offence. This was when the least expected thing happened, as Cheng passed the ball to Tyler, who had just gotten open at the three-point line off of a hard screen from Viktor. He shot the ball, with every Expert in attendance in awe of his actions. Tyler was just as bad at offence as Tyrell was before high school started, so why would he take a shot? This question rang through the minds of all the Experts, and their question wasn’t answered, because the shot missed and Lory grabbed the rebound.

 

“Oh man, I wanted to go perfect,” Tyler spoke in a disappointed tone, running back and getting on defence before a fast break was even possible.

 

Lory passed the ball to Michael, who kept the same evil grin on his face as before. Just like in the previous quarter, four members of the team stayed just outside the paint, while Tyrell guarded. The crowd chanted loud.

 

“Defence! Defence! Defence!” But as the crowd chanted, Michael ran straight towards the basket, almost too fast for anybody to react.

 

Tyler was able to move slightly fast enough to get in front of Michael, but Michael knew he was close enough to the basket and jumped as high as he could. Tyler jumped as well, but couldn’t get high enough to block Michael, who floated the ball into the basket. The audience let out a groan of disappointment, which put an even bigger smile on Michael’s face.

 

Tyrell ran over to Tyler but kept his eyes on Michael.

 

“The paint isn’t your environment. Want to switch?” Tyrell suggested.

 

“I should knock your knees out for even thinking of that. If he scores two more times, then fine. Until then, don’t doubt me.” Tyler also stared at Michael, slight anger in his eyes after being scored on.

 

Cheng brought the ball up for the Guardians again, and the offence moved just as before. Tyrone watched his team from the corner, taking notes of every movement his team made. Once again, Tyler was open for a three-pointer. Cheng passed Tyler the ball, and Tyler shot, making the shot this time. This caused the crowd to cheer loudly. Kory leaned forward and looked over at Macbeth, who was looking back. Without saying any words, their eyes had a full conversation. Both took mental notes that Tyler added an offensive weapon to his arsenal, regardless of whether he was fully accurate with it or not.

 

The next offensive possession for the Mustangs saw Michael bringing up the ball. He moved a little faster this time, almost as if the crowd’s cheers fuelled him more than anything. He ran straight to the basket again, but Tyler was right there to meet him, reacting better this time. This didn’t stop Michael, though, who jumped toward the basket. Tyler jumped in response, higher than before, and it looked like he was going to block the shot. This was when Michael spun around Tyler in the air, tossing the ball into the basket again. The crowd went silent from this display, with only one person being audible.

 

“Good take!” Coach Riley yelled out. Michael was completely energized, between the praise from his father and the silence from the crowd. The two things he loved the most about basketball.

 

Again, Cheng brought the ball up. The Guardians’ players moved around the court again, except for Tyrone. Michael, who was guarding Tyler, was being extra cautious about a possible screen coming from Viktor. When the screen came again, Michael was ready and got around it, but the ball wasn’t passed to Tyler. Instead, Cheng threw the ball towards the basket, where Tyrell met it in the air and dunked it.

 

“I bet Deon taught him a few of his tricks during summer camp,” Manny noted.

 

Frustration built up in Lionel, who was trying to hold back his personal feelings towards Tyrell the entire game. But this time, Tyrell had scored while Lionel was guarding him, which almost sent Lionel to his billing point. Lory quickly realized this and ran over to Lionel, gently putting a hand on his shoulder.

 

“You’re still outscoring him. Keep that in mind. You’re still better than him on offence as a whole,” Lory had a smile on his face to calm Lionel down. This didn’t work.

 

“Twenty-one points doesn't mean anything when I only got them because the defence cared more about formation than me.” Lionel barked to his brother, then ran down the court, frustrated.

 

Michael charged into the paint again against the Guardians, but this time he attempted to pass the ball out to Lionel, who was standing in the corner behind the three-point line. Almost as if Tyler predicted this, he snatched the pass from the air, chucking the ball down to Cheng who got an easy layup off of the fast break. Tyler glanced over to Michael.

 

“Did you forget that passes won’t work here?” Tyler was fully confident as he spoke.

 

Instead of responding, Michael went back and got the ball off of an inbound, this time, stopping at the three-point line instead of charging in. He knew he had all the time in the world since nobody was going to try to stop his three-pointer. He took a deep breath and jumped and shot the ball. However, just as what happened to Daryll at the beginning of the game, Michael suddenly felt sick in the air and pressure on his body. Then, in the corner of his eye, he noticed Tyrell in the air. The shot was already in the air, so it was too late to change anything. Tyrell had smacked the ball, sending it out of bounds. The crowd cheered loudly, which only made Michael angrier. When they both landed on their feet, Tyrell glanced over to Michael.

 

“I thought you were going to continue challenging my brother or did you decide to back out before the battle was over?” Without waiting for a response, Tyrel rand back to cover Khris.

 

Daryll tossed the ball in, with Michael catching it. Michael was almost surprised that Tyler didn’t steal the inbound pass, considering that he was close enough, but Tyler stayed in formation. Just as earlier, Michael charged into the paint, where Tyler was waiting for him. However, Tyler wasn’t the only one, as Viktor and Cheng had reacted fast enough this time to surround Michael. Instead of panicking, though, Michael spun with the ball, so fast that not even Tyler could react. With the spin, Michael was free from the triple-team, and he played the ball into the basket. Then he looked at Tyrell.

 

“Challenge? I don’t see any challenge,” His evil grin was back.

 

The crowd was silent again from Michael’s display of speed and skill. The Guardians coach called a timeout. When the Guardians sat on their bench, the coach had a very calm voice.

 

“We’re failing at stopping him from driving in. I guess we’ll have to work on that formation more at practice. Switch to formation set three. Tyrell, you’re on my nephew. Give him my regards.” The coach smiled. Tyrell nodded in response, no sense of emotion on his face, even though he was excited to face Michael head-on.

 

On the Mustangs bench, Khris had a warning.

 

“Tyrell will probably switch onto you. You won’t score anymore,” Khris’s voice was low and serious.

 

“He can’t be that good. This is the first quarter where I can touch the ball, I’m sure I got this.” Michael’s tone was as confident as ever.

 

Coach Riley reminded his team of the plan, and then timeout ended. The Guardians stuck to their game plan, which resulted in another three-pointer attempt from Tyler, which missed.

 

When Michael brought up the ball, he noticed the formation of the Guardians change. Tyrell was on him, Tyler stayed close to Khris, and the rest of the team stayed around the paint.

 

“Coach, what’s that formation?” Kazu asked Coach Riley from the bench.

 

“I’d call it a Triangle and Two. Two guys watch the perimeter, while three guys form a triangle around the paint. Great against teams with only one shooter, since the three in the paint can guard anyone who comes near the basket. As opposed to the last formation that the Guardians had, a Box and One, where only one guy watched the perimeter and four guys formed a box around the paint. Since Khris is such a good shooter, though, that formation wasn’t very effective against us. Plus, Michael is amazing around the paint, which is dangerous when mixed with his stellar speed, so putting Tyrell on him in this formation is the right move, I guess. But—” Coach Riley rambled on, and Kazu stopped listening, watching the game again.

 

Michael noticed that Lionel was on the opposite side of the court from Khris, and with Tyler watching Khris, Lionel was wide open. But, while Michael took a glance at Lionel, Tyrell had stolen the ball, already dunking before Michael had a grasp of what had happened. The crowd went wild. While Michael ran back to get the ball from an inbound, Tyrell passed him.

 

“Your uncle says hello,” Tyrell showed a bit of cockiness, which Michael picked up on.

 

This time, when Michael brought up the ball, he charged straight towards the paint. Tyrell stayed next to him the entire time, though. When Michael jumped to float the ball in, Tyrell jumped higher, smacking the ball out of bounds. The crowd was even louder than before. The sudden noise of the crowd raising their volume made Daryll jump slightly. Manny took notice from the stands.

 

“Oh? This quarter is decided,” Many laughed, and Kory was extremely annoyed.

 

When Michael got the ball from the inbound, Tyrell was right on him, applying more pressure. Michael was already breathing heavily from their few encounters. He tried his fast spin around Tyrell, but when he was done his spin, he was shocked to see that Tyrell was already in front of him again, and he immediately stole the ball, running down the court for another dunk.

 

“And he’s defeated. I must admit, he’s highly above average. His speed was definitely enough to catch Tyler off guard. But, when Tyrell gets in your head, he’s impossible to score against.” Manny was wildly entertained, a smile constantly on his face at seeing Tyrell toying with Michael.

 

“Unlike you, Villain, he gets in their head with his defence, not with his words. His way is respectable.” Kory also couldn’t take his eyes off the court. Tyrell was mesmerizing to watch whenever he wanted to shut down an opponent.

 

Michael couldn’t even look at his father. The fact that he couldn’t silence the crowd, or even score anymore, weighed on him heavily. Already almost completely exhausted from barely playing against Tyrell, he tried his hardest to push through the remainder of the quarter, just wanting it to end. He didn’t score a single point for the rest of the quarter.

 

Due to Michael’s exhaustion, Tyler, who he was guarding, had a lot more open three-point shots. He made four out of twelve shots. At the end of the quarter, the Mustangs had twenty-nine points, while the Guardians had seventy-five points.

 

In the huddle before the final quarter, the coach laid out the game plan.

 

“Khris, this is your quarter. Do with it as you want, just please get us some points.” Coach pleaded.

 

The mood on the bench was low. Daryll was shaken by both the audience and Tyrell, Michael felt completely defeated, Lionel felt fully disrespected and defeated. Lory had too much concern for his brother to focus on the game, while Kazu had just recovered from his exhaustion. Khris wasn’t shaken by the Guardians, but he was concerned about the mental strain and affects that this game could have on his team in the future. They needed something to cheer them up. That’s when Russ stood up.

 

“Guys, it’s a practice game. The season is still over a month away. We can get better before then, and we’ll beat them. For now, let’s just trust Khris. I want to see an Expert in action in our favour.” He tried to cheer the team-up. It didn’t work.

 

The buzzer went off, and the teams were ready to start the final quarter. The mustangs had changed their lineup. Daryll, Khris, Russ, Lory, and Kazu were the five that were going to play the final quarter. When Daryll realized that the Guardians had the same lineup on the court, he tapped Khris on the shoulder.

 

“Are these guys all machines?” He asked.

 

“The Fletchers might be, honestly. As for the other two, they haven’t been running a lot, since the Fletchers have been doing most of the work. Get used to this against Experts,” Khris replied.

 

Khris brought up the ball this time, passing over the half-court line. Tyrell was waiting for him at the top of the three-point line. This was when Khris’s concern for his teammates left, and all he could think about was the excitement of going against Tyrell.

 

“Don’t worry, this time I’m going to try on offence,” Khris smiled as he spoke.

 

“You’re not scoring. Wipe that smile off your face. You can’t do anything more than shoot, you’re useless as someone handling the ball,” Tyrell responded, emotionlessly.

 

“Well, you weren’t the only one to practice this Summer. I’ve been waiting for this chance,” Khris stayed in place, dribbling as he spoke. It was almost as if the entire court froze while these two conversed.

 

“To go up against me?” Tyrell asked.

 

“More than that. To show Manny that you can’t even stop me. To show Manny that I’m coming for him.” When Khris got done speaking, there were only five seconds left on the twenty-four-second shot clock. Because of this, Khris took a shot from just in from of the half-court line, where he had been standing. He had been far enough from Tyrell that Tyrell couldn’t scrape the shot, and because Khris got the shot off cleanly, it went in the basket. Manny took note.

 

“He can shoot from even further back now,” He said. Just as the shot went in, Khris glanced over at Manny, looking at him for the first time in the game, an angry look on his face.

 

“Guess it’s time,” Kory spoke out. “He’s about to show you everything that he has.”

 

Tyrell quickly looked at Manny, then back to Khris. He was immediately bothered at the feeling that he was being used as an example. The Guardians went back on offense, Tyrell did everything he could to get around Lory, ending up with Cheng passing him the ball and him going up to dunk it. However, as he was in the air, Russ appeared and blocked the dunk, Daryll getting the ball and tossing it down the court to Khris, who had gotten a running start. Khris caught the ball just outside the three-point line and shot it, the ball going in.

 

“Your offence is becoming slightly predictable,” Russ said cockily to Tyrell.

 

Tyrell didn’t respond. Instead, he glanced at Tyrone, who looked at Tyrell, then looked to their coach. Their coach gave a nod to Tyrone, who then ran down the court and took an inbound from Cheng.

 

“Back to the normal offense,” He ordered Cheng, who didn’t argue back and ran down the court.

 

Russ was guarding Tyrone when Tyrone brought the ball up, Tyrone glaring at Russ.

 

“You almost made the biggest mistake of your life, making Tyrell mad. Luckily for you, Tyrell trusts me to handle some of his grudges.” Tyrone shot as soon as he was done speaking, but this time Khris came out of nowhere to block Tyrone, with Russ catching the ball and running down the court for an easy layup.

 

“Revenge isn’t a good look on you,” Khris remarked, before going back to defending Tyler.

 

Tyrone was furious, and so was Tyrell. Tyler, on the other hand, was completely calm.

 

“Can we try offensive set three?” Tyler yelled towards the coach. When the coach nodded, Cheng went and brought the ball up.

 

Similar to the third quarter, the Guardian players were moving frequently. Except for this time, Tyrone was moving around a lot. Before anyone realized, Tyrone had gotten away from Russ and was open for a wide-open three-pointer. Cheng passed him the ball and he shot it, making it.

 

“We’re going to score. Every. Single. Time. No more stopping us,” Tyrone yelled over to Khris. The crowd roared.

 

Khris brought up the ball for the Mustangs, but this time, Tyrell met him at the half-court line, staring a hole into Khris, but Khris didn’t feel any pressure. Khris was completely calm.

 

“You said I was useless when it came to handling the ball. Allow me to fix that,” Khris started dribbling faster, putting some tricks in. Crosses between the legs, behind the back, head fakes. The sudden change caught Tyrell off guard, enough for Khris to get a little space in-between him and Tyrell. With this space, Khris shot the ball, scoring another three-pointer. Yet again, after the shot, Khris looked over at Manny, glaring.

 

“I’m so confused right now, does he hate me?” Manny asked in a sarcastic tone. He had a big smile on his face.

 

“You know, he trained all summer for you. So that he had the skill for you, specifically. You see, I have no desire to face off against you again because I don’t need to. He is going to get my revenge for you. He’s finally going to shut your mouth,” Kory looked over at Manny. “All summer, I helped him work on his handles and range so that anybody less than Tyrell himself wouldn’t be able to stop him. He can create distance between himself and anybody now. All this, just for you. Just so that he can beat you, and you alone.”

 

“Really? For little ol’ me?” Manny faked the surprise, almost relishing in the fact that he had such an effect on the brothers.

 

Over the next few possessions, Tyrone and Khris traded three-point shots, neither missing, and neither being stopped as they do. After a while, the score changed. The Mustangs had forty-six points, and the Guardians had eighty-seven points. There were seven minutes left on the clock, and the Guardians called a timeout.

 

Despite their success, the mood on the Mustangs bench. Khris’s performance didn’t raise anything. The point gap barely closed, and the rest of the team was useless. Only Russ had some excitement for the game, still hyped up from the time he blocked Tyrell.

 

“Seven minutes, then this is done. Let’s just get this over with.” Daryll blurted out.

 

Coach felt powerless to say anything to his team. Speeches were never his strength. As opposed to his brother, who was handling the Guardians team.

 

“Alright, last seven minutes. Dealing with an Expert, we need to let ours loose. Tyrell, Tyler, Tyrone, do your thing.” The Guardian coach said, which caused all three Fletchers to smile, even Tyrell.

 

The buzzer went off, signaling the end of the timeout, and the teams walked back onto the court. But once Tyrell stepped on the court, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

 

“Game over,” Manny was completely serious, watching Tyrell the entire time.

 

When Tyrell opened his eyes, his intensity hit everyone in the gym. Not even the Experts could resist feeling pressure from Tyrell. The audience was in complete silence, not sure how to handle it. The refs were a little shaken, but they continued the game if that’s what anybody could describe what happened next.

 

On every possession, Tyrell completely shut down Khris. Every time Khris tried to dribble, Tyrell snatched the ball away. Every time Khris tried to shoot, no matter the distance, Tyrell blocked every shot. Every time Khris tried to pass, Tyrell snatched the ball out of the air. On the opposite end, nobody on the Mustangs team was able to stop Tyrone from scoring. The remainder of the game was truly a massacre.

 

When the final buzzer went off, the Mustangs had forty-six points still. The Guardians had one-hundred and seven points. The crowd didn’t cheer much, only light applause. Everyone was just happy that it was all over. The Guardians’ fans shuffled out of the gym quickly as both teams went to their locker rooms.

 

“So much for him showing me everything he can do, Kory,” Manny stood up, bravado filling his voice. “I may not be Tyrell, but I’m sure I can stop all that. Your revenge won’t ever happen as long as you don’t play.” Manny headed out of the gym, not looking at Macbeth or High-Rise as he walked out. Macbeth walked over to Kory once Manny was gone.

 

“I don’t think anybody short of a professional could even hope to score on Tyrell when he’s like that. I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Macbeth pulled out his phone, checking the time. “I have a rehearsal tonight, so I gotta dash. Hopefully, your brother isn’t torn up about what just happened. Keep in touch.” Macbeth then left the gym as well. Finally, High-Rise approached Kory.

 

“That was scary. They needed you, Kory. I’m disappointed in you.” He stated.

 

“You can talk after to beat him yourself.” Kory retorted. Without a word, High-Rise walked out.

 

Kory didn’t want to leave. It was hard for him to watch that game, knowing that he could have made a difference. When the gym was empty, he went and stood in the center of the court, looking at one of the baskets.

 

“No. I couldn’t have changed anything,” He muttered to himself, trying to convince himself to stay away from basketball. He couldn’t go through the embarrassment that Manny put him through. He had convinced himself over the last year that he had hated basketball, and he couldn’t turn back to playing it now.

 

In the Mustang locker room, there was complete silence. Everyone had their head hanging low as they sat down, except Coach, who was standing by the door. Coach wanted to talk but wasn’t sure what to say, his inexperience showing up. That’s when Russ stood up.

 

“Listen, we can sit here and mope around, or we can use this as motivation. This is us with no experience against Experts, and now we have a goal! So suck it up and learn from this!” Yet again, Russ was trying to cheer up the team. Yet again, it didn’t work.

 

“Thanks, Russ, but I’ll take it from here,” Coach let out a deep sigh. “In two weeks, the first of three pre-season tournaments will take place. We’re one of the eight teams in it. I want you guys to use this as a way of learning that we have an unimaginable amount of work to do before the season.”

 

“Coach,” Lionel interrupted, standing up. “I never want to feel like this again. I don’t want to ever feel hopeless like I did today. Not only that, but I never want anyone to even think they can make me feel this way. None of the Experts. I want to beat them all. So, it looks like I’ll be sweating a lot more.”

 

Collectively, everyone nodded in agreement. Despite the mood in the locker room, the team had found its goal. Beat every member of the Experts. However, this was just the players' goals. Coach still only cared about making the team good enough to fulfill the challenge given to him by the school board to save the basketball team.

 

Now that the Mustangs had their first experience against Experts, they must immediately prepare for a pre-season tournament, where they are sure to come up against more Experts. How will the team prepare? Is this sudden motivation enough to truly outweigh the trauma that happened during the game? All these questions will be answered in time!

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A note from TheMagnificentOne

Next Episode: Dealing With Struggles


About the author

TheMagnificentOne

Bio: Hi everybody! My name is TheMagnificentOne, but you can call me Mag. I am a film program graduate and want to try book writing instead of continuing scriptwriting. I usually write stories about sports, superheroes, or war. It's my dream to create comic books in the future, despite my inability to draw. I hope you all enjoy the stories I write and stay Magnificent everyone!

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