I’ve spent the past few months coaching an 8th grade recreational league basketball team. We won games, lost games, and (most importantly) had fun. The regular season didn’t go as well as I would have hoped, and we approached the season-end tournament sitting as the #10 seed out of 14 teams. Not the best odds in the world, but everyone loves a good underdog story, right? The following events recap our Cinderella-story run to the championship.
The First Round
Our first round matchup was on a Saturday morning against a team we had beaten in the regular season. At this point, I was so worn out from coaching all season that I didn’t really care if we won or lost. We approached the game with our normal game plan and won. After the game, one of my better players said, “Wow, Coach, I’ve never won a playoff game before. This feels good!” It broke my heart, and I was determined it was time for us to shock the league. #7 seed down.
This game made me nervous. The team we were facing beat the shit out of us in the regular season and I figured they would do it again. In my mind, I was assuming we would lose, but on the outside, I was determined to get my kids onto the next round. The game was on a Tuesday night, and for some reason, the gym was packed. My star point guard had roughly 40-50 friends in attendance. This was great. There was an entire section of bleachers full of rowdy and rambunctious middle school boys all cheering for my team. We played a tough game to the end and pulled off a 3-point win. #2 seed down.
Thursday night, I learned that I am in fact getting old and that high blood pressure really just sucks. The vibes in the gym were buzzing, and our middle school hype squad had returned. At this point in the tournament, we were surrounded by a buzz and everyone wanted to come watch us. The other team had arguably one of the best players in the league and without a doubt the most annoying coach in the league. You know that old man in his 50s who was all-state in high school and never left? Yeah, this was him. He was screaming at his kids, at the ref, and he even started mocking me like Trump mocks everyone at the debate. At that point, he lit a rage in me, and I sicced the dogs on him. We barely tied the game up at the end of regulation and went to overtime. When the overtime buzzer went off, we were still tied and headed to the second overtime. As time expired, my star player dribbled to the corner and threw up the game-winning shot.
The 2OT game winner last night pic.twitter.com/JZ9qWV1Qog
— Delph (@delph_13) February 26, 2016
Gotta love the random middle schooler yelling “OH SHIT” in celebration. Our little hype squad even stormed the court when the game ended.
The court storming last night pic.twitter.com/484liIsa2X
— Delph (@delph_13) February 26, 2016
#3 seed down.
I knew this was going to be tough game as we were facing the #1 seed. The coach had created a friendly rivalry with me since draft night, and they beat us on a buzzer beater in the regular season. I walked into a packed gym on Saturday, and our hype squad was ready. As I was checking in at the scorer’s table to make sure everything was ready, I heard an all-too-familiar voice behind me.
“Hey Coach. I expect a clean game today.”
It. Was. Mike.
Remember Mike? The clown that tossed me from a game in the regular season? Mike is the worst referee in the history of sports and arguably my greatest enemy. I knew our Cinderella run was up for a challenge with this idiot wobbling around and blowing his whistle.
The next hour was the longest hour of my life. I watched my team battle back and forth, I watched the other coach get a technical (Thanks, Mike), and I watched Mike sweat harder than Lane Kiffin surrounded by a bunch of boosters’ wives. When the buzzer went off, I looked up at the scoreboard.
I’m sorry, did you think we would win the whole thing? This isn’t Hollywood. The other team hit a last second shot and everyone on my team looked like someone just smashed their Xbox with a sledge hammer. Our underdog run was over. I thought I was going to cry. As I tried to gather my thoughts before I addressed the team one last time, Mike came by to shake my hand. That’s when it all made sense.
It was all Mike’s fault. The rivalry continues… .
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