Coach Peterson, a high school teacher and girls' basketball coach, is haunted by a personal catastrophe. Shopping at the mall with his young son, he had only looked away for a moment ... let go of his hand just to pick up a shoe. And when he turned back, his son was gone ... vanished without a trace, without a clue. And all those years since, blaming himself, not knowing what really happened, whether his son was alive or dead, has shadowed everything, every victory, every relationship.
Then a college basketball player comes to his attention - very talented, the son of a wealthy and powerful movie director - and everything starts to change. There's something so familiar about him ... the laugh, an expression in the eyes. Could it be? Is it possible?
Calling on all the determination, strategy, and heart he has so often inspired in others, Coach Peterson must win the truth about the son he thought was lost forever. It's finally time for a COMEBACK.
"Craig Strohm has told a story that reflects years of experience on the basketball court, and, rarer still, a knowledge of the hazards of the human heart." PETER COLLIER, best selling Author of The Kennedys, the Roosevelts, the Fords, and Destructive Generation
"The reader of Strohm's suspenseful and sympathetic journey is simultaneously in the grip of a thriller, inside the head of a basketball junkie and at the feet of a natural-born storyteller." CHARLES McDERMID, The San Francisco Examiner
"A heart-rending story that forces the reader to take a close look at the line between obsessive behavior and staying true to one's convictions." DENISE CURRY, 1997 Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee, 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist
It was a play they practiced many times during the regular season.
Usually the team worked on special situation plays at the end of every practice. Coach Peterson liked to work on the team's special plays when the team was tired. It was in the fourth quarter when games were won and lost. It was then that you needed the most composure, the most concentration.
Most of Coach's special situations plays were secret ones that he never used during the game so the opposing coach couldn't smell them out. The only problem with that was the team rarely got a chance to use them beforehand in a game situation. That was the case with the play the Empire High Lady Warriors were about to run. They had never run it in a game.
But here it was, three seconds left, down by two, and Coach Peterson was yelling "two for three," "two for three," at the top of his lungs in hopes he might be heard across the arena floor. Two for three was the code for Coach's "out-of-bounds-underneath-your-own-basket-no-time-on-the-clock-no-time-outs special secret play."
Coach Peterson was always conservative when it came to using time-outs. Painstaking careful about preserving them. Always trying to hang on to them in case they might be needed for "end of game situations."
But the Warriors had none left.
Coach had used them all early in the game trying to slow Mater Dei's early onslaught. An early onslaught it was too, with the Mater Dei Monarchs leading twenty-two to six after just one quarter.
It had certainly looked like Coach wouldn't be needing any last second secret specials, but the Warriors had battled their way back, never leading in the game but finally getting within two points when the Warrior point guard Jennifer Kelly buried their eleventh three-pointer of the game with forty-two seconds left. That forced the Monarchs to throw up a shot with three seconds remaining on the thirty second shot clock.
The Warriors rebounded, hit the outlet and raced down court.
They never flinched.
There was no hesitation.
Coach had always told them there would be no time-outs called in that situation.
Just get open and fire away.
The first open shot was always a good shot, according to Coach Peterson.
"Swish Happens" was one of his favorite sayings.
It didn't matter anyway because with less than fifteen seconds left, the Warriors finally had hope, but they didn't have any time-outs.
Kelly weaved the ball through the middle and the Warriors two long ball launching wings sprinted the outside lanes. Caitlin Cook was on the left and Angie Rodriguez on the right. Both of them heading straight for the three-point arc.
Cook got there first, but Kelly was still dribbling through transition traffic.
Kelly's head was up, and she was desperately searching for a spot up shooter.
Hoping Kelly would spot her, Cook took her arriving defender down in the key and then V-cut back to the three-point arc.
The timing was perfect.
Kelly hit her with a bullet, a crisp one handed pass off the dribble. Cook turned and squared up to the basket.
It was a driveway dream shot.
A game winner. The shot you play over and over in your mind when you're growing up, and spending hours outside your house grooving your shot.
Everyone watching in the Oakland Coliseum lifted off their backsides and collectively sucked the air out of the arena!
It was right on line. It looked good. It had a chance.
It was short.
It clanged off the front of the rim.
That was the bad news. The good news was it also clanged off of one of Mater Dei's giant post players and flew out of bounds.
Pelican Pond Publishing (an imprint of Blue Dolphin Publishing), 2002
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