Long Shot - Stine Megan - Страница 1
It Pays to Win
The noise sounded like the ominous low rumblings of an earthquake. But it was feet, hundreds of feet, stomping the floor under the bleacher seats in rhythmic, near-perfect unison. And then the chanting began, faster and faster.
“Dee — fense! Dee — fense! Dee — fense!”
Pete Crenshaw stood on the floor of the gymnasium catching his breath and listening to the deafening noise. Every basketball game was exciting, but this one was different. The score was tied, the players were tense, and Pete knew the coach was counting on him to keep Santa Monica from scoring.
“Time out — Rocky Beach!” the public-address announcer called.
Pete and the other players huddled up around Coach Tong, the Rocky Beach High School basketball coach. Coach Tong looked each player in the eye — especially Pete.
At 6’, 190 pounds, Pete was small for basketball.
He knew Coach Tong had taken a chance in making Pete a starting guard. But Pete had talent, and now he was one of the best players on the team.
“Twenty seconds left in the game,” the coach said. Quickly he diagrammed a play on a notebook-size chalkboard, then erased it with the elbow of his sweater. “Now, what are you going to do?”
“Win!” the five players shouted in one voice, clapping hands and walking back onto the court.
Just for a moment, before Santa Monica came back, Pete watched the Rocky Beach cheerleaders. They were jumping and yelling and pumping the crowd up. The prettiest of them looked straight at Pete, pushing her soft brown hair away from her face. Then she actually blew him a kiss.
Oh, brother, thought Pete. I don’t believe she did that.
The girl was Kelly Madigan. She and Pete had been going together for months and Pete still could never predict what Kelly would say, think, or do next. Maybe, Pete thought, that’s why he liked her so much.
“Someone’s trying to get your attention,” said Bill Konkey, the other guard on Pete’s team.
“I saw the kiss,” Pete said, embarrassed.
“Jupiter Jones blew you a kiss?” Bill asked.
“Jupe’s here — at a basketball game?” Pete said in complete surprise.
Pete’s eyes followed Bill’s pointing finger into the bleachers until he spotted two familiar faces. They were Jupiter Jones and Bob Andrews. Pete, Jupe, and Bob had been friends almost forever. Together they were The Three Investigators, Rocky Beach’s famous detective trio.
Pete couldn’t believe his eyes. Jupiter Jones was at a basketball game and he was holding a girl’s hand! Not just any girl, either. It was Amanda Blythe — girl with a capital G!
This was a major news story, because Jupiter Jones was a total brain about everything except two things — dieting and girls. He had no luck with either. But there he was, holding a girl’s hand and smiling away. He secretly waved to Pete with his free hand.
On Jupe’s other side in the bleachers was Bob Andrews, who got an A in Jupe’s worst subject. Bob knew all about how to handle girls. When he got his contact lenses a few years ago, he seemed to get a new personality, too. Bob had become one of the most popular guys in school.
The buzzer sounded its alarm, snapping Pete back into the game.
“Twenty seconds remaining,” said the PA announcer. “The score is tied 70 to 70. It’s Rocky Beach’s ball.”
Bill Konkey passed it to Harold Dixon, a forward. Okay, hang on, Pete told himself. Only 15 seconds to go. Suddenly the crowd groaned as Terry Nolan, Santa Monica’s star player, stole the ball.
Nolan took it straight for the basket. He was going to make the winning bucket — with only 10 seconds left in the game!
Pete leaped into the air just before Nolan went up for his jump shot. The timing was perfect. Pete slapped the ball as it left Nolan’s hand.
Thumpa! The ball hit the floor one time and then — thumpa-thumpa-thumpa — Pete had it. The crowd was screaming. Pete took off for the other end of the court.
Five seconds! Pete knew Santa Monica players were coming up right behind him, but he flew into the air for a lay-up. The ball dropped through the net. Two points and then the buzzer sounded.
“It’s 72 to 70!” shouted the PA announcer. “Rocky Beach wins!”
The band started playing and the cheerleaders came back onto the court, cheering and dancing as the players rushed toward the locker room.
“What a shot!” Bill Konkey said, slapping Pete on the back. Pete nodded and smiled, pulling a towel around the back of his dripping-wet neck. But he let his teammates pass him by. He was dead tired — too tired even to hustle for the cold, stinging shower that would cool him off.
“Pete,” a voice called to him.
Pete turned and saw a man, a stranger, in the hallway outside the locker room. He was a man in his forties with a muscular build. He wore a purple Windbreaker that had an old-fashioned script S in white on the left side. Steady blue eyes looked out at Pete from under the brim of a purple sports cap.
“Pete, talk to you a minute,” the man said.
He wasn’t from California, Pete thought. The detective in him was running on automatic pilot. The man sounded like he was from Boston. Slowly Pete moved toward him.
“Ross Duggan,” the man said, shaking Pete’s hand. “I’m the basketball coach at Shoremont College. Ever hear of us?”
“Sure,” Pete said. “You’re about fifteen minutes from Rocky Beach. You beat UCLA last season.”
“Right, that’s us,” said Coach Duggan. “Listen, somebody told me to come take a look at you, so I did. I’ll tell you, I liked what I saw tonight, and I want to put an idea in your head. You apply to Shoremont and I’ll see that you get a full scholarship — everything paid for. And you’ll play on the team as a freshman. We’re not the biggest school, but after four years of what I can teach you, Pete, I guarantee you’ve got a good chance to play in the NBA.”
Pete took his towel and rubbed his sweaty reddish-brown hair. Was he hearing right? This guy just dropped out of nowhere and offered him a full scholarship to play college basketball? Pete didn’t know what to say.
“Just think about it,” Coach Duggan said, handing Pete a business card. “Right now you’re good, Pete. I could make you great, and you could help me make my team great. I’ll be talking to you soon.”
The coach turned and walked away.
“A very confident man,” said a voice behind Pete. “I’d say he’s someone who’s used to getting what he wants.”
Pete knew that voice right away. He turned to see Jupiter Jones. Bob Andrews stood there beside him.
Jupe and Bob looked like before and after. Jupe, the shortest of The Three Investigators at 5’8 3/4”, was wearing brand-new dark blue jeans — even though everyone at school was wearing faded stonewashed jeans. He also had on a too-small T-shirt that said I eat — therefore I AM. And he had the paunchy stomach to prove it. As usual, his straight black hair was mussed.
By contrast, Bob was sporting the trendy look: a red polo shirt, which looked great with his tanned skin and blond hair, plus stonewashed jeans and loafers without socks.
“Jupe,” Pete said, looking around, “what happened to Amanda Blythe? I saw you with her in the bleachers and almost had a heart attack.”
Jupiter cleared his throat. “I concluded that she wasn’t my type,” he said, scowling.