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Just to give you guys fair warning, this chapter has nothing sexual in it. I promise that the next chapter will get back to the romance.
I hurt my hand on vacation last month, and it still isn’t better. That’s making it hard to churn out the pages I want to write.
As always, I want to thank you for all the votes. Chapter 13 was the highest rated new mature story in June. Chapter 14 was the highest rated new mature story in July. And as of right now, Chap. 15 is sixth in the month of August even though it was all tease and no sex.
I don’t expect Chap. 16 to get those same kind of high marks, but it is necessary for the story, and I fully expect to score high for September with Chap. 17.
One last thing: Neighborhood Dad is a terrible title. I just slapped that name on my file the first time I saved the document. I still haven’t had any inspiration for a better title. I think “On The Rebound” would fit the romance and basketball angles, but sounds cheesy and trite.
If you have any ideas, send me a message. Click on my name to go to my author page. Then there is a tab on the far right that says Contact. If I get a suggestion I like, I’ll be sure to give that person full credit when I post the next chapter.
If I hadn’t been sharing a room with Charles, I would have rubbed one out before climbing in bed. Instead, I lay there with visions of Autumn’s naked body spinning through my head over and over like an old 45 record that gets stuck.
Eventually I fell asleep, and if I had any sexy dreams in the night, I couldn’t remember them in the morning.
Before the regional championship, I walked into the locker room to address the team.
Even after a whole season of games, I still didn’t feel comfortable giving pregame speeches. My comfort level dropped a few notches lower when I saw Autumn and Kim whispering and giggling over in the left corner of the room. There was no doubt that Autumn had told Kim everything that happened as soon as they were together the night before.
It was very fortunate that Gina knocked when she did. I’d like to think that I would have come to my senses and told Autumn to knock it off. Would I have done the right thing? A year ago I would have said yes without a hesitation, but that was before Randi.
Is it just Randi that I can’t resist, or am I turning into some creepy pervert?
Sure, like any red-blooded American male, I check out porn from time to time, but I don’t frequent sites that boast Teens and Barely Legal. Unlike when I was in high school and college, I don’t mind a few wrinkles around the eyes. I actually find those little lines around the corners of the mouth quite cute. I don’t have a fetish about teenaged girls. But when they are right under your nose all the time, the fresh, young, ripe bodies are hard to ignore.
If I had succumbed to temptation and done something I’d regret, that something would have been passed along to Kim. And who knows whom Kim might have told.
Then a worse thought struck me: what if Autumn embellished the story? What if it weren’t enough to say that she stripped for me? What if she lied and said I felt her up or sucked her breast or had full-on intercourse?
What would happen then? Well, I could go to jail. It wouldn’t matter that Autumn is 18. It wouldn’t matter if Kim knew that Autumn initiated it. Autumn was still in high school and protected by the law.
That’s all I could think about as I tried to give some motivation to the players. I have no idea what it was I said to those girls, but by the end it looked like they had zoned out and weren’t listening anyway.
Out on the floor, I watched my team atakent escort for a minute, but everyone seemed to have their heads in the game, so I turned my eyes to the other end. It was easy to find the opponent’s best player.
The center was as tall as Carrie, but had nimble feet. She caught passes and went through the layup drills smoothly and effortlessly. She could be a problem.
“That’s Anna Doyle,” Heather said, knowing exactly whom I was watching. “Player of the year in her conference, still weighing college offers. Her mom is Cherokee Indian.”
“Cherokee Indian?” I asked. “I mean, she looks the part with her long black hair and tan skin, but she’s going to a Catholic school?”
“I dunno. Her name is Doyle. Maybe her dad is Irish Catholic.”
“More likely they’ve been recruiting again. Public schools have to pick from whatever students they’ve got on hand, and these private schools can go out and look for help.”
Heather patted me on the shoulder. “You can take that up with the athletic association after the season, but right now we’ve got a game to play.”
“Sorry, I’ll climb down off my soapbox.”
As the girls finished their warm-up drills, I called them together.
“Okay, remember what I said. We’re gonna have Carrie doing a three-quarters front on their center, Doyle. If she starts to dribble, the weakside defender has to come over and help. This girl Doyle is good. Stay on her.”
Once the game began, it was obvious that Doyle was too fast for Carrie. While they were equal in height, Doyle was getting the shots she wanted too often and was doing it quick enough the other defenders couldn’t get there to help.
By the end of the first quarter, Carrie had two fouls and was sitting next to Heather, who was giving her a pep talk. I put Crystal in the game for her scrappy defense, and she and Tessa rewarded me with a couple of steals that kept us in the game.
Carrie didn’t play much in the second quarter before getting her third foul, and we were down eight points at the break.
As the girls went into the locker room, Heather and I stopped outside the door to confer.
“Carrie couldn’t hang with Doyle,” Heather stated the obvious.
“Not when they were both fresh anyway,” I added. “What if we start the third with Carrie sitting and play full-court pressure? Doyle has to run the floor, chasing Paige, and gets winded. Then we bring in Carrie who is all rested.”
“I like that plan. Start Crystal in the third?”
I nodded my head, then we entered the locker room.
The basketball side would work itself out. I needed to reach the girls’ minds and hearts.
“I had a fellow tell me that he could never be a girls’ coach,” I began. “There’s too much drama between teenaged girls. Cat fights and back-stabbing.”
I paced back and forth in front of the benches where the girls sat.
“Maybe that’s true on most teams, but I guess I won the lottery ’cause this group of girls is nothing short of a miracle. Remember that first week of practice when you guys were grumbling and rolling your eyes at all the drills I made you do? I’ll bet one or two of you were even thinking about quitting.
“I asked you all to have some faith. To believe that I was looking out for your best interests and wanted nothing more than to see you all grow and develop. You ladies did that. You put faith in me and started putting in the effort. And that effort has really paid off. You’ve come so far so fast.
“Ones who were shy have come out of their shell,” I said, looking at Carrie. “Ones who were afraid to shoot have developed into serious threats,” ataköy escort I said toward Lori. “And some have become natural leaders,” I said, looking between Tessa and Paige.
“But most of all I see a group of girls who aren’t just teammates — they are good friends. Look at how you all crammed together in that hotel room last night. Or how we share meals at Richie’s. There is a bond there that can’t be broken.
“We can win this game. But win or lose, no one can take away your friendship and love for each other.”
I paused as the girls smiled warmly and turned to one another.
“Now, Coach has a few things to address before we get back out there.”
I stepped aside and let Heather nail down some areas where we needed to improve.
I stood near the baseline as the girls jogged back out on the court to warm up. Carrie stopped in front of me.
“I’m sorry, Coach. I can do better — you don’t have to bench me.”
“And you will do better. I’ve got big plans for you once we get three minutes in.”
That brought a smile, and she joined her teammates.
I hoped that our pressing defense would overwhelm our opponent, but the other coach must have spent halftime talking about ways to beat our press.
We gave up a couple of easy baskets and were down 10 when I sent Carrie to the scorer’s table.
“We are going to feed the ball into you a couple of times, Carrie, and I want you to go straight at Doyle. Attack her.”
On Carrie’s first catch, the center made a quick spin and went up for a shot. Doyle reacted slowly and reached out and grabbed Carrie’s wrist, drawing a whistle.
The next time down, Doyle was ready and gave Carrie some space before going up and blocking the shot.
The third trip down, Doyle was all over Carrie and never even let her catch a pass.
“Damn, that Doyle is good. She’s already adjusted,” I said to Heather. “We’ll have to try something else.”
Paige must have had the same idea as she saw Carrie stuck behind the Cherokee center. Paige flashed out to the wing, caught a pass and pump-faked her defender off her feet. She sped to the basket for a layup before Doyle could free herself from Carrie to challenge.
“That’ll work,” said Heather.
For the rest of the quarter, Doyle touched the ball on almost every possession. She either went strong to the basket or found an open teammate for a shot. We could have easily been down 15 going into the fourth quarter.
Except, Paige was on a mission. She was demanding the ball every time she popped open. She took jump shots, drove inside for layups or passed off to teammates for open tries.
Playing in this big game in this crucial time had really sparked Paige’s competitive drive, and the entire team was feeding off it.
We cut the lead to seven by the end of the third.
The entire fourth quarter was a two-woman show. It was like that NBA game on ESPN Classic where Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins went back and forth every trip down the floor.
Doyle made something happen on her end, then Paige would answer.
And with Carrie much fresher after resting much of the first two and a half quarters, Doyle started to look winded finally.
We cut the lead to two, but Doyle found a guard outside for a three-pointer to make it a five-point game. Paige found Lori cutting to the basket for a hoop and a foul that cut the lead back to two.
When the clock dipped under a minute left, Paige made a nifty up-and-under move to score inside to cut the margin to one point. Fans on both sides were screaming at the top of their lungs.
I told the girls not atalar escort to foul yet, but play tight defense. As the clock reached 30 seconds, Doyle made a quick move to the basket and drew a foul on Carrie.
I sent Kim to the scorer’s table and told her we might need a three-pointer from her, and she smiled and said, “Okay, Coach.” Like it would be the simplest thing in the world.
Doyle’s chest was heaving as she went to the foul line. She’d put together a monster game to this point, so I fully expected her to hit both foul shots and make it a three-point lead.
To my surprise, Doyle left the first one short, bouncing off the front of the rim. The legs must be going, I though.
She overcorrected and shot the second one too hard. It hit the back of the rim, bounced off the backboard and dropped into Paige’s hands.
Paige passed to Tessa who calmly brought the ball up the floor.
I called out a play, and Tessa relayed it to the team.
We tried to catch them staring at Paige and ran Lori on a backdoor cut, but Doyle dropped back to cut off the passing angle.
Instead, Paige curled around Autumn’s pick and caught a pass on the wing. She immediately attacked the paint and left her defender in the dust. As the clock was winding down, Paige rose up and found Doyle waiting for her. Stretching her right arm out wide, Paige reached around the center to finger-roll the ball off the backboard.
Paige and Doyle banged hips, and Paige was knocked off-balance, but still got the ball up.
The officials didn’t call the foul, and the ball trickled off the rim.
Lori rushed forward, leaped into the air and caught the rebound. She went back up to shoot, and the buzzer sounded as she was getting the ball away.
Lori’s shot went into the net, but the head referee waved it off.
We had lost by one point.
I screamed at the ref, “Where’s the foul call? You can’t swallow your whistle because you’re afraid to make a call!”
Heather stepped in front of me to keep me from storming over to the refs.
Then I saw the dejection on each one of my girls, and the anger dissipated. They were heart-broken, and no amount of yelling was going to change that.
I saw Doyle go up and give my daughter a hug.
“You played great,” said the Cherokee center.
“Thanks, you too,” Paige answered, wiping tears from her cheeks.
After a minute, Heather shepherded the girls into the locker room, and I intended to follow, but was surrounded by people.
“It was a great run, Henry,” said Charles.
“You guys were great out there,” said Donna.
Several other parents swallowed their own disappointment long enough to congratulate me on my coaching job.
Then I recognized the sportswriter from our hometown newspaper and gave him a couple of quotes.
A woman I didn’t recognize stepped up and reached out a hand.
“Coach Donaldson? Hi, I’m Amanda Fuller, an assistant coach at UNC-Asheville.”
“Oh, hi. Nice to meet you.”
“That was some game tonight. I was here scouting Doyle, but your power forward was really impressive.” She glanced down at a program in her hand. “Paige?”
“That’s right. Paige is my daughter.”
“Has she signed anywhere yet?”
The phony, pleasant smile on my face turned authentic as I realized the implications of that statement. Most of the schools to show an interest in Paige were Division III schools that can’t even offer an athletic scholarship. Only a couple of Division II schools had taken the time to scout her, and neither had made an offer yet, but here was a Division I coach taking notice.
“She’s been weighing her offers, but I don’t think she’s narrowed it down just yet.”
Amanda talked about getting Paige and me up to Asheville to tour the campus and meet the head coach.
We spoke for a few minutes more, and I accepted a business card before joining the team — with a much brighter outlook than just a couple of minutes before.
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