More than 44
Dave Abrahams was waiting for the number two train to take him back uptown to his apartment on the Upper West Side, but took a minute to submerge back into his favorite high school basketball daydream.
There was five seconds left on the clock and his team was down by one point. The ball was handed to Mike Finnegan at half court and his teammates started running a play, like a key was inserted into a car’s ignition.
Coach Doherty had called for Tony Dorio and Tom O’Malley to set a pick on Dave’s man, but Central High’s Calvin Brown had slipped and fallen down. Dave looked behind himself as the referee’s count on Finnegan reached three. He instinctively came to the ball to relieve the pressure and Jacobs let the ball go.
Brown scrambled to get his feet and banked into Cameron Breslin as Dave drove to the basket. The defender got back to his feet long enough to tackle Dave before he could release the ball. The referee blew his whistle and then walked toward the scorer’s table, “Shooting foul on number 35, green. Number 44, white, shoots two.”
One second remained on the clock as Coach Doherty screamed at the referee for a flagrant foul.
“He wasn’t even going for the ball, Gene!”
The players set up on the foul line and Coach Simpson of Central High leaned over toward the other referee and calmly said, “Time out,” trying to make Dave think about the shots that he was about to take.
The only ice water in this steamy high school gymnasium could be found in Dave Abraham’s veins. He had taken so many foul shots in his driveway and countless gyms throughout Long Island that the process was as routine as brushing his teeth.
“There out of time outs!” Coach Doherty said to the group of five seated in front of him. “When Dave makes these shots we immediately pressure the ball. We’re one second away, gentlemen.” He stood up and looked around the huddle. “This is what we’ve been working for all year… all of our lives! Let’s go get it!”
The buzzer sounded to end the time out and the coach yelled, “Everyone in here!” All 12 players thrust a hand on the pile. One, two, three, HARD WORK!” the team collectively yelled in unison.
Dave started his long journey toward the foul line. It had been 25 years since the team had played for a boys’ basketball championship. The town of Bailey Woods was alive with hope as the referee handed the ball to Dave and said, “Two shots, gentlemen. Relax on the first.”
Dave held the ball in his left hand and rested it against his side. He looked toward the rim and took a deep, long breath. The crowd noise dissipated in his mind and his focus rested unwaveringly on the first shot. He dribbled the ball three times and then bent his knees and released the first shot.
“Swish,” the net sounded like the blast of a cannon, signaling the game was tied at 64. Dave then saw the second shot in his mind before even going into his pre-shot routine. The ball tickled the front rim, brushed against the backboard, and then dropped through the net. The home crowd erupted as Dave backpedaled toward the opposing rim. Central High attempted a last-second shot that fell short into Breslin’s hands. The fans rushed onto the floor as the number two train came roaring into the station, bringing Dave back from his glorious past back into the oppressive heat of the present.