Anticipated at 60,000 Words
When Penny Tipton sets out to defy her brother, her classmates, and her friends by joining the varsity basketball team, little does she know that mystery, mayhem, and even murder lie just ahead.
But her brother persuades her to stick it out, and she slowly begins
winning over her teammates through her solid play and quick wits. But
when Ziros turns up missing for the championship game and Penny is a
doubtful starter because of an injured arm, the game's outcome is in
doubt. Can Penny pull out all the stops, guide her team to the
championship, and save her missing teammate?
With the threat of a civil liberties case hanging over his head, the principal gives in and orders the coach to put her on the team. But within a few games, all she has managed to accomplish is to keep a spot warm on the bench.
Penny gets her big chance when a guard breaks his leg playing baseball, and she’s the team's only backup. She comes into the game cold, sinks the first three shots she takes, and brings the team back to within one point. When she’s fouled with only seconds on the clock, the entire team turns out to root her on—with the exception of George Ziros, the team center, who can’t stand playing with a girl. As Penny throws the ball up for her 1-and-1, it rims the hoop, pauses for a brief moment, and falls through. Preparing for the winning shot, she raises the ball above her head, eyes the steel rim, and catches Ziros glaring at her out of the corner of her eye. She lowers the ball, bounces it several times, and prepares again. This time she releases the ball, and it flies true and straight, slipping through the hoop with a swish!
The next day at school, Ziros and three other team members come up to Penny and apologize for the way they’ve been treating her. They tell her they realize how important she is to the team and want to make up for their behavior with a small present. Ziros holds it out to her, and she unwraps it to find a boy’s jock strap. Penny throws the strap at him and runs into the bathroom where she finds Monica Galegoody, president of the Junior Class. She can tell in an instant that Monica knows all about the incident—Ziros must have tipped her off—and now it was sure to be all over school. That night at dinner, Penny announces that she’s quitting the team. But her brother talks her into sticking with it for one more week.
When Penny’s friend Valerie asks her to set up a date for her with Charlie, Penny refuses, saying that she’s too young for Charlie and that Charlie really doesn’t date all that much anyway. Valeria is furious and forms a vendetta to get Penny kicked off the team. To prove that she’s not too young for Charlie, she catches up with him in the locker room, wraps her arms around him, and kisses him. He pulls away and tells her not to do that again or he’ll tell her brother. After Charlie leaves, another Senior Varsity player comes up to her and says she can kiss him like that all she wants, and she does...just as Penny pops in on them.
Three weeks later, Penny has weathered the storm and is the eight grade’s most valuable player. She gets a call from Valerie and goes to meet the girl, who tells her she’s pregnant. She wants to know if Penny will help her get an abortion, and Penny tells her no. She says it’s something Valerie needs to discuss with her parents. Valerie, upset, tells Penny they’re no longer friends.
The day before the end of the regular season, Penny is in top form until the last few minutes, when one of her own teammates gets upset with her for missing a play and pushes her. She falls over another player and thinks she has broken her arm. From the hospital, she learns that her team won and is scheduled for the semi-final game. Charlie tells her not to worry about the game, that she needs to get some physical therapy; but Penny is distraught.
At the semi-final game, Penny’s arm is strained but not broken. Wrapped from the elbow to her wrist, it’s her shooting arm. She sits on the bench and watches her team fall behind. Twelve points. Then ten. Eight. Four points behind with only 2 minutes to play. Her teammates are exhausted. Her replacement is out of shape and not a very good guard. Penny takes off her coat and tells the coach to send her in. The coach looks to the bench to Penny’s mother and Charlie, and Charlie nods.
Penny steals the inbound pass, runs to the goal, and scores before being fouled. She makes both free throws, and the game is tied.
The opposing team works the ball down the floor and passes it around
the circle before their big forward arches a shot skyward. It hits the
rim and bounces off, and Penny pulls it down. She calls for a
timeout with 15 seconds to play. As she huddles with the coach, her arm
is throbbing. He asks how she feels, and she says she’s fine, although he
knows differently. He wants to leave her in as a decoy shooter but
doesn’t want to risk having her take the shot. They set up a play in
which she fakes the defender out of position and passes to Ziros for a
dunk. But as the play unfolds, Ziros slams the ball off the back of the
rim and it bounces away. With two seconds left, Penny grabs it, takes two
quick steps to the three-point line, and stops, unleashing a winning
shot. The team goes crazy, and Penny—jostled around in the
excitement—falls to her knees, clutching her arm in pain.
After a brief confrontation with the forward, they learn the truth about why he'd been playing so poorly and what happened to the missing eighth grader. But can Penny and Charlie rescue the player before it’s too late? Charlie thinks it's a long shot, but Penny has her eye on the hoop--all the way!
Jennifer Wright lives in Texas with her husband, Robert. She is currently attending college to pursue a degree in Vocational Nursing. Writing has been her top passion since she was very young.
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