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One Shot · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Hacked Beyond the Arc
Ball goes up. Ball comes down. Seems simple enough, right?

Not so much when you’re taking one free throw to send the game to overtime and keep your team alive.

Cinderella was in our corner of the tournament bracket, and they had put up a hell of a fight. Despite that, we’d had a fairly comfortable ten-point lead with under four minutes to go, and Coach D had subbed out a few of our starters, figuring that they needed rest and that the backups could use the playing time. Both of which were probably true, and if I’m being honest, it seemed reasonable at the time.

And then California freaking Baptist decided that would be a fantastic time to go on an 18-4 run. In hindsight, we should have known that they could and would do something like that — they were a team that nobody had expected to be good for another ten years, certainly not to make it to the second weekend of the tournament, but they’d caught fire at the right time, and you don’t win games in March without being able to seize momentum late. Credit where it’s due, they were making plays and catching us off guard.

Win or lose, Coach was going to tear us a new one in the locker room.

We finally scored a basket with about 35 seconds left to get us back within two, but Cal Baptist took their sweet time at the other end of the court and scored as the shot clock was running down. With 5.2 on the clock and us having possession under the far basket, down four, Coach called timeout and brought us in to draw up a play.

Scoring four points on a single possession can be done, but it takes some skill, some luck, and some help from the other team in the form of a foul. You can’t really do anything about the luck, and during the game is a bit late to be working on skill, and the other team doesn’t want to help you… but if you can get them to make a mistake, you’ve got a chance, and I saw something I thought might work.

When the timeout was over, I got the ball from the ref and rolled the inbounds pass to a teammate. The clock didn’t start until he touched it, giving me time to get down the floor. He picked it up and quickly passed it back to me, still outside the three-point line.

CBU had a perimeter defender who was young and aggressive. He’d been guarding me for much of the game. And he hadn’t been paying much attention in their last huddle.

I faked a shot, hoping he’d forgotten not to foul. Then, when I saw him bite, I put it up for real.

I felt him hit my arm.

I heard the buzzer sound as the clock hit zeroes.

I saw the ball go in.

One-point game.

The refs went to the replay monitors to check the timing of the ending, and I saw Young, Dumb and Ugly getting an earful from his coach. Pretty soon, they said the basket counted and the foul had been before the buzzer, so I got one free throw.

One chance to keep the game going and keep our title hopes alive.

Well, I’d done what should have been the hard part. Now just one little free throw. I’d hit hundreds, thousands, in practice, and about ten already today.

No pressure.

I stepped up to the line.

Have you ever had fifteen thousand people screaming at you?

How about knowing that everyone who doesn’t want you to succeed wants you to fail?

It’s torture. Pure and simple. The only thing you can do is ignore it. Pretend you’re back in the gym.

This is not as easy as it sounds.

The ref passed me the ball.

I bounced it a couple of times.

Then, before I could think about it too much, I lined up the shot and let it fly.

It hit the backboard and fell through.

Tie game, we’re going to overtime.

We ended up winning in 2OT and made it to the Final Four. I got drafted in the second round by Sacramento and played pro ball for the better part of a decade, but I never took a more important shot than that one.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Fenton >>TrumpetofDoom
Okay, first off, thanks for choosing basketball rather than, say, American football or baseball. At least, I know what’s going on with basketball.

The story is fairly simple, but failed to grasp me for a very straightforward reason: we don’t really get the sense that the foul shot is that vital to the player you describe. We get the shot is important within the purview of the game, to get into extra time, but the rest (turns out that shot is the most important of the player's career) sounds tacked on and hokey. You should raise the stakes to hook the reader more.

However, I acknowledge the original take on the prompt. Writing sport stories is difficult, so kudos to have taken up the challenge!
#2 ·
· · >>TrumpetofDoom
I'll lazily echo what >>Monokeras has said. Thank you for choosing basketball indeed, but also, thank you for going beyond the last second point that will make the team win trope.

I think that, to make us feel better how important that shot is, maybe start by pointing it.
#3 · 1
· · >>TrumpetofDoom
This really just sounds like a story a player might tell, which isn't a bad thing, but it isn't a good thing either because, while it is a story, it lacks any real sense of me caring. It is just a sports story. Why should I care? What does it mean?

It lacks any greater context to make me care.
#4 · 1
· · >>TrumpetofDoom
A play by play of New England Patriots coming back from a 28-3 deficit and winning in overtime wouldn't be a bad story, but it would be boring.

But tell me about how the whole world wants New England to lose because they're arrogant beast-men who don't care about anything but winning and routinely beat unsuspecting American apple pie loving patriotic teams into the dirt just for the fun of it, and they're dirty cheaters who would gobble cocaine-laced snot rockets if it gave them even the slightest edge, and in they're downtime they go to little kid birthday parties and pop all the balloons and piss on the cake and carry off the moms, and then they come back from a 28-3 deficit and win in overtime. Now that's just good theater.

This is a good enough technical description of the game, but where's the humanity? Does this guy ever sweat? Does he get frustrated? Does he have a dying pet koala at home he promised he would win the game for?
#5 · 1
· · >>TrumpetofDoom
I like it. I really like it. I don’t even need descriptions to see a retired player, sitting on a bench in his suit, telling the story to a new player. He’s not bragging. He’s not running his mouth. He’s telling it like it was, a tiny moment that ended up having a profound impact on him.

All in all, it’s a very human story. None of the usual flair and drama you see in other stories and I think it works well. Good job.
#6 ·
· · >>TrumpetofDoom
Yeah, I'm with most of the rest here. Great concept, well structured, great writing, but the narrator is a nameless, toneless robot, and that prevents me from getting into it as much as I would like.

It really is just that! All the other elements here are fantastic! But the hook and protagonist are important.

Above average, even so, but just that one aspect takes it out of the top tier for me. Thank you for writing, though!
#7 ·
· · >>TrumpetofDoom
Huh, an all-narrative story? Interesting.

You do a pretty good job of keeping things engaging, and all-narrative is a great way to pack a lot into a small space. I liked this, and I liked that it wasn't simply a 'happy ever after' once the shot was made. I wish there was a bit more theme to this, maybe, but even as just a character-centered piece, it's quite strong. The lack of character quirks didn't bother me as much as some others here, although I do agree that a bit more distinction in voice/personality would strengthen this.

Still, good work overall!
#8 ·
· · >>TrumpetofDoom
I think this would have been better as a 450 word story.

So, I don't know basketball. Some of what's said up there is Greek to me. But what I do get is clutching it out, and this story captures that well... once it gets to it.

Which, I think, is the problem here. The story starts off with the really high emotion, but then forces us back through the remainder of the game before we resume clutching it on the free throw. I feel like you should have either not given us the insight into the future free throw, or you should have just stuck right there in the heart of the moment and executed just on that.

All that said, still a fun little story.
#9 ·
Hey! Finals for the first time!

My last two writeoff entries, at least, have featured literal takes on the prompt that came at it from an angle nobody else did.

In case anyone was curious: California Baptist University is a real school that is scheduled to move up to NCAA Division I in the next couple of years, and will be ineligible for postseason competition for four years after that as part of the reclassification process. I chose them by looking down a list of DI or future-DI schools and thinking, "Which of these names would be simply embarrassing to lose to, but not fuck up the flow of the text like Southeast Missouri State would?"

I could have sworn I'd indicated that the narrator's team had had serious national title hopes that were now in very real jeopardy, but I don't see it anywhere. Not naming his school was a semi-deliberate choice, but I definitely pictured them as one of the perennial contender schools (Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, etc.). "Coach D" was intended to recall "Coach K", the active coach who holds the record for most career wins, but that's something that would easily slip past a lot of readers; fortunately, I didn't intend that as a reference that was necessary to understand if you wanted to follow what was going on.

The last line is kind of tacked on, I'll admit. Not only that, it doesn't quite capture the intended meaning (which was less "most important shot of his career, period" and more "most important shot in the moment he took it" - maybe there were others that did more to change the course of his season or career, but those could only be identified in hindsight, whereas he knows going into this one that if he misses, the season's over and he's going home disappointed).

Baseball would actually have been a terrible choice, being the only one of the major sports in North America that doesn't have a game clock. You can't have a last-second play if there's no last second. Soccer has a game clock, but the ends of halves are a little fuzzy (at least, when the clock counts up, as it does in international play and just about every major professional league), and I don't know nearly enough about hockey to write about it. American football might have worked, but basketball is a more international sport and the in-game scope is a lot narrower - the playing surface is a lot smaller, and there's only 10 guys out there instead of 22.

Yeah, the last-second play to win is horribly cliché, but stories do need some sort of drama. For a story that's just about a moment, I think playing just to stay alive works at least as well.

>>TitaniumDragon >>HoofBitingActionOverload >>MrExtra >>Ranmilia >>Not_A_Hat >>AndrewRogue
Thank you for your time and comments.