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“I hadn’t noticed. I guess I didn’t think it was possible. But, this isn’t the same. He isn’t on our level, but he’s at a level that he can make us put an effort,” Kory remarked, watching Russ from the bench. Kazu listened, completely interested in Kory’s analysis of Russ. “It’s similar to the twins and Michael. Someone who is above the average high schooler. But, why do I feel like this is coming out of nowhere?”

 

Kazu put a smile on his face.

 

“He stayed on the team since he started high school. Every year, people would quit because the coach only played the kids that were there from his first year here. Russ came a year after the last coach. Everyone Russ’s age and lower was never going to play in games. Most people quit, except Russ. Instead, he challenged everyone on the team as a way to attempt to earn his spot,” Kazu turned his attention to Russ on the court. “Despite never getting to play, he pushed himself against every player on his team. His offence never really jumped, but his defence was his way to fight. Even now, he constantly goes against Khris in practice every chance he gets. If anything, he should probably be better.”

 

Kory nodded, understanding the situation a little more. Coach Riley chimed in on the situation.

 

“He has determination. I knew a kid like him when I was playing in high school. Those are the best types to play with. The kid that pushes himself hard, even when nobody notices. Four years of being that kid, I guess Russ wants to take the bull by the horn,” Coach watched the staredown between Russ and Trent, a slight smirk on his face.

 

“He’s good. Definitely can stop a normal high school player. But, against the Experts, his only hope is to slow them down,” Lionel added, watching Trent instead of Russ.

 

“Well, we have an Expert on our team, along with natural scorers, a great rebounder, and a tall tipper. All Russ needs to do is slow them down,” Kory’s legs started twitching, the sudden desire to join the game nearly overwhelming him. That’s when he noticed someone in the stands. Manny was sitting in the top corner of the stands, a sinister smile on his face, staring at Kory as the game continued. Once Kory noticed Manny, his desire to join the game left.

 

Continuing the game, Trent brought the ball up again, as Russ played tight defence on him. Unlike the previous possession, Trent gave all his attention to Russ, not giving him a chance to steal the ball. The Kraken players moved around the court, attempting to get open. However, Trent didn’t watch his team move, instead jumping as high as he could again. Russ jumped as well, reaching high enough to get his hand in the face of Trent, but this didn’t matter. The shot went in, and Trent glared at Russ as he ran back on defence.

 

Xavier started to march towards Trent, anger on the Kraken captain’s face, but High-Rise stopped him.

 

“I promise you he won’t miss for a while. Give him five minutes, please. I’ll double his score later to make up for him going rogue for a bit,” High-Rise pleaded, knowing that Trent was about to go off.

 

Xavier sighed, not saying a word, but he nodded in agreement. Xavier knew how Trent felt, not wanting to back down from a challenge. Hearing an Expert promise him offensive success, however, was something he couldn’t ignore. When one of the best players around wants to take over a game, sometimes, you have to let them.

 

For the Mustangs, however, Khris didn’t need to promise anybody that he wouldn’t miss. Everyone on the team knew that Khris wasn’t going to miss, and they knew that they could put their faith in Khris. However, Michael was a major part in this thinking, because the team knew that Michael wanted to be the best, and they knew that whenever Khris was starting to heat up, Michael was going to heat up as well.

 

When Khris brought up the ball, Trent waited there on defence. But, with a glance towards Michael from Khris, the Mustangs were guaranteed a basket. Michael darted past Xavier, immediately hitting his top speed as he ran towards the basket. Khris didn’t try to dribble around Trent, instead jumping straight up to shot. Trent responded by jumping his highest, his shadow covering Khris as he prepared to block the shot. But, Khris changed his form in the air, passing the ball around Trent to Michael, who made an easy layup around High-Rise.

 

On the Kraken’s possession, Trent did the same thing as last time, jumping s high as he could as soon as he crossed the half-court line, making another shot over Russ. Coach Riley immediately called a timeout. The Mustang players walked off the court, surrounding Coach.

 

“Russ, you’re out. Lionel, you’re in. Russ, sit in between Kory and me for a bit. Lionel, go out there and see if you can stop Trent,” Coach proclaimed.

 

Nearly everyone on the team was shocked except for Kory, almost immediately knowing what Coach was thinking. Russ didn’t argue, instead flashing a smile at Lionel.

 

“Make him fear you,” Russ said, a smile on his face.

 

Without a word, Lionel nodded as Russ and then nodded at Lory, who had a smile on his face.

 

“Ready? Break!” Coach said as the buzzer signalled the end of the timeout.

 

When Russ was about to sit down, Kory grabbed his arm, pulling Russ in between himself and Coach.

 

“Watch Trent closely. Notice every movement he does as he shoots. Study it, memorize it, perfect it. I think you can find a way to stop him,” Kory patted Russ’s back as Kory spoke, not taking his own eyes off of Trent.

 

“You’re going back in the second quarter. I’m counting on you to shut him down from then on,” Coach also patted Russ on the back. “Do that, and I’ll officially announce you as the captain.”

 

Russ nodded, staring at Trent, who guarding Khris. The Mustang offence, almost as if they all read each other’s minds, started moving. Lory went and set a screen for Lionel in the corner, and Michael darted towards he paint, making sure High-Rise stayed to try to stop Michael from scoring. In the brief second that Lionel got free from Quinn off of Lionel’s screen, Khris passed him the ball and Lionel shot another quick shot. The shot banked in, giving the Mustangs another three points. Taylor cheered loudly from the audience, which caught the attention of Manny. Immediately, Manny watched Lionel, seeing if he reacted. Lionel didn’t look up, but he had a smirk on his face. Manny knew that the smirk could have been because he just made a shot, but Manny also had an idea.

 

Trent brought up the ball, staring down Lionel. Kory, Coach, and Russ watched Trent as close as they could, studying everything about his movement. Lionel tried to play as tight as he could on Trent, but Trent simply jumped and shot the ball, Lionel not being able to even reach Trent’s face as he did. The shot went in, and Trent stared down Russ as he went back on defence.

 

While that play happened, Manny got up and walked over to Taylor and Rachel, sitting next to Taylor.

 

“Hey there, I’m Manny. What’s your name?” Manny put on a pure voice.

 

“I know who you are. Manny Johnson, The Villain, an Expert, and someone who needs to get away from me,” Taylor didn’t even look in Manny’s direction as she spoke.

 

Manny couldn’t help but laugh, standing up and walking away.

 

“What was that? You knew who he was?” Rachel asked.

 

“Lionel is really into the Experts, so I looked them up. I also asked Kory for a folder. The Villain is one of the more well-known Experts, so his picture was online,” Taylor answered, watching Lionel play with a smile.

 

Rachel rolled her eyes, confused as to why Taylor seemed so interested in Lionel. The girls watched as the Mustangs scored, and then the Krakens scored, and the rest of the quarter went back and forth. Trent stayed fired up the entire quarter as if he was trying to send a message to Russ and Khris. The Mustangs, however, relied on the trio of Michael, Lionel, and Khris, who were unstoppable. Russ, Kory, and Coach watched Trent the entire quarter, chatting among themselves what little details they noticed.

 

Manny, his plan failing because Taylor didn’t give him the time of day, decided to quickly check out the Sabres game, wanting to see how Macbeth and Robin were doing. The game was into the second quarter, and Macbeth was already on the bench. The Sabres were beating the other team by fifteen points, but Manny knew that the opponents weren’t going to score much more. That’s what it means to face Macbeth, your chances of winning are almost zero against his style of play. Manny also noticed that the point guard on the Sabres seemed different from other players and that every player on the court wasted no movements.

 

“Oh? Guess You’ve moulded your entire team already, Macbeth. I still don’t see your style matching up well against High-Rise or Dilly-Dally, however,” Manny laughed to himself, getting excited at seeing Macbeth collide with another Expert.

 

Back at the Mustang game, Coach had given the team a strategy for the second quarter, based on a conversation he had with Kory. Only Khris understood how effective the strategy would be, and it all relied on Russ.

 

The buzzer rang, signalling the start of the second quarter. The Mustang lineup consisted of Khris, Michael, Lionel, Russ, and Kazu. Coach watched his team walk onto the court, remembering the conversation he had with Kory about the plan.

 

“What do you mean he’ll quit before this quarter ends?” Coach asked.

 

“Trent isn’t focused on basketball, that’s why he is the most disappointing Expert. He has talent but refuses to unlock it all because basketball is a tool for him. He uses it to gain popularity, which he plans to move into a music career. The moment he sees this game as a nuisance and unnecessary, he’ll leave. We just have to push him to that point,” Kory responded.

 

“That’s why you guys called him Dilly-Dally?” Coach asked.

 

“Because on the court, that’s all he does. This is the most I’ve seen him move, so he’ll wear himself down soon as well. If he kept his condition and motivation high, he’d be up with the top five,” Kory smirked, knowing that the Mustangs had the advantage. “Plus, Khris had been using Michael and Lionel so that he doesn’t expel too much energy. When the time comes for Khris to become unstoppable, This game will almost be over. That is if High-Rise still has the same weaknesses as before.”

 

Having remembered that conversation, Coach’s confidence rose. Having someone like Kory, who knew the game of basketball and knew the Experts so well, was a major boost for Coach. However, the thought always lingered in Coach’s mind about why Kory never joined the games.

 

The second quarter started with Khris taking up the ball. The offence moved as usual, with the screen for Lionel along with Michael cutting into the paint. This time, the play ended with Michael getting a free layup, as High-Rise went to cover Lionel.

 

Trent brought up the ball for the Krakens with his eyes completely focused on Russ. Russ kept a smirk on his face, looking Trent in the eyes. Trent glared down at Russ, before jumping to shoot again. However, when Trent raised his arms to shoot, he noticed that the ball had gone missing, turning around to see Russ make a layup. Anger filled him immediately, but then Conner slapped him on the back.

 

“Let me take the ball up this time, I’ll give you an opening to take your revenge,” Conner stated, before getting the ball from the inbound.

 

Khris was guarding Conner this time, playing tight defence, but was ready to guard a cut any time. Conner almost immediately realized that Khris was more skilled at defence than Daryll, and protected the ball cautiously. He scanned around, seeing Trent in the corner. Trent jumped as high as he could, and Conner threw him the ball. When Trent caught it, he landed and jumped again to shoot. Just like the first time, however, the ball wasn’t in his hands when he raised his arms to shoot, and Russ passed the ball up to Khris, who ran forward and shot a three-pointer.

 

Russ looked back at Trent, a smug look on his face.

 

“Khris trusted me with guarding his rivalry. I’m not letting you beat him in scoring, ever,” Russ claimed.

 

Trent’s eyes widened, his face showing rage to a level it hadn’t shown before. Kory noticed.

 

“It’s time. He’s going to become unstoppable, but it’ll burn him out quick. Game over,” Kory smiled, anticipating seeing Trent at his best.

 

Trent took the ball from Conner on the inbound, almost in a trance as if nobody else was on the court. Xavier contemplated calling another timeout but knew that he’d be wasting another one, which wasn’t an option. Trent darted down the court, a speed he wasn’t moving at before, blowing past Russ and spinning around Kazu. He then dunked the ball, landing and looking back at Russ.

 

“You’re nowhere near my level,” Trent stated.

 

“I disagree. You’re barely an Expert, and the fact that I’m slowing you down brings up the question. Is this the beginning of a new Expert?” Russ smiled, confidence exuding form him. Khris happened to overhear the last statement from Russ.

 

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, allow me to show you a real Expert,” Khris stated, taking the ball for an inbound.

 

Trent was guarding Khris as Khris passed half-court, with Trent completely locked in on defence. The pressure coming from him didn’t affect any of the Mustangs, however. This pressure was nothing compared to what Tyrell showed off. Khris smiled at Trent.

 

“I see you’ve got a presence as well. Makes sense, the best players always do. However,” Khris closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, opening them aight a serious look on his face. “I’ve got more than you.”

 

The pressure from Khris started to hit the Kraken players, except High-Rise. Khris started dribbling, doing every move he could to get Trent off balance. Trent couldn’t keep up, eventually falling to the floor, followed by Khris shooting and making the easy three-pointer. Khris looked at the fallen Trent.

 

“Who’s the failure now?” Khris taunted as he went back on defence.

 

Trent slapped the floor in anger, which Xavier ran over to him to help him up. Trent slapped the hand away, almost growling at Xavier. Yet again, Trent took the inbound, running up the court with the ball. Trent darted past Russ, but Russ almost immediately caught up. That’s when Trent stopped around the free-throw line, jumping for a pull-up mid-range shot. Russ wasn’t able to react in time, and couldn’t steal the ball, resulting in Trent making the shot.

 

The Krakens, unable to stop Khris form making another three-pointer, brought the ball up again, in Trent’s hands. Yet again, Trent darted past Russ, who was struggling to keep up with the sudden surge in Trent’s mobility. Kazu moved to help guard Trent, leaving High-Rise wide open. However, Trent jumped up and dunked right over Kazu, making Kazu fall to the ground. Trent landed and stared at the fallen Kazu, not saying a word for a moment. Then he turned and ran back on defence. Russ and Michael went to help Kazu stand, with Khris right behind them.

 

“Not an experience I’d like to have again,” Kazu said, wiping himself off.

 

“This is great. All we have to do is stop him once. He won’t pass, he’s too into himself right now to pass. One stop and he’s done, I promise,” Khris said, a smile on his face.

 

“Well, I think I have a plan,” Michael said.

 

While all this was happening, Lionel had already run down the court, staring at Trent.

 

“It’s weird. You’re this good, yet I feel like Tyrone was better at offence than you. Like, his fundamentals were much better. It’s almost as if you’re nothing more than hops and shots,” Lionel had clear confusion in his voice, with a mix of confidence.

 

Trent snarled at Lionel but decided not to respond. He looked up to the audience, seeing the Kraken fans cheering for him, which only motivated him more. The mix of anger and focus on him was exactly what he needed. After all, he only played basketball so that more eyes could be on him. A cross-platform celebrity is what he wanted to be until he was popular enough to focus completely on music.

 

The next Mustang possession went as usual, with the Kraken defence unable to stop the combination of Lionel, Michael, and Khris.

 

Trent took up the ball for the Krakens, seeing Michael playing defence on him this time. Trent immediately tried to dart past him, but Michael was fast enough to stay in front of Trent. This caused Trent to jump and try to shoot over Michael, but this all went according to plan. As Trent jumped, Russ ran past, slapping the ball out of Trent’s hands before he could raise them in the air. Russ ran down the court, but Trent had recovered fast and was right behind him.

 

Behind Trent and Russ was Michael, running up the court. Michael could feel himself heating up, feeling unstoppable, as he had been scoring well this game. When Russ realized that Trent was behind him, he jumped for the layup. Trent jumped as well, much higher than Russ, about to block the layup attempt. However, Russ anticipated this, tossing the ball behind him, with the ball going straight into Michael’s hands. With the sound of the Kraken fans screaming for Trent to stop the Mustangs from scoring, mixed with Michael already heating up, Michael knew he would be able to attempt something he rarely succeeds with. A sadistic and evil smile on his face, Michael jumped with everything he could. As Michael rose in the air, Trent was falling. Michael reached as high as he could, and dunked the ball in the net, right over Trent, This time, it was Trent on the floor. Michael stared at him as he landed, and then he let out a laugh that he couldn’t hold in. A laugh that would be right at home in a Saturday morning cartoon from a villain.

 

High-Rise ran back, offering a hand to Trent. Trent slapped the hand away, stood up, and walked to the Kraken bench, sitting down. Nobody on the Kraken team tried to stop him, as they could tell that Trent being on the court would do more harm than good at that point. Trent was both physically and mentally exhausted. A different, shorter Kraken player took his spot on the court.

 

Michael ran back to Khris, trying hard to hold in his laughter, but it would occasionally come out in bursts.

 

“He quit? HAHAHA!” Michael laughed again, now at the thought of making an Expert quit.

 

“If he took basketball seriously, we would’ve been in big trouble. I guess he’s gotten worse, instead of improving like the rest of us. I don’t think I can even consider him my rival anymore,” Khris sighed, clear disappointment in his voice, which Michael noticed. However, Khris knew this would happen.

 

As this moment, High-Rise walked past Khris, not looking at him. Suddenly, Khris got a chill down his spine. Michael noticed the change in Khris’s demeanour.

 

“Is something wrong?” Michael asked.

 

“We’re in trouble. It seems like High-Rise is about to get serious. Call it a hunch,” Khris’s voice had a very serious tone. Khris turned to look at High-Rise, and all he saw was a beast about to be unleashed.

 

Will High-Rise be able to make a difference in this game? Will the Mustang players be able to slow High-Rise down? The thrilling conclusion to this game is coming up!

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A note from TheMagnificentOne

Next Chapter: I Will Improve!


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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