The following is another excerpt from ALL NATIVE, the novel.
Coach Stewart also instructed the boys to slow things down – which was a good idea anyway as the Wolfpack played a run and gun game. Man, could they run. They were relentless, coming wave after wave if you let them; it reminded people of the way the Russians looked when they played Team Canada in that first game in 1972. Who are these guys??
The Ravens carried the determination that they wore on their faces coming out of the locker room and were quick on the ball. They got to where the Wolfpack wanted to go before them, drawing a couple of early charging calls. Coach Stewart couldn’t have asked for a much better first quarter as the Ravens led by four after 12 minutes.
During the short break, there was a buzz, a wave of murmurs as people sensed that this was going to be closer than they thought, that the Ravens had a chance. But this had happened before, in many championship games, and often the favorite found their groove, the other shoe dropped, and the pundits were proven right. Coach Stewart was well aware of that. He knew that, seven or eight times out of ten, the Wolfpack would beat the Ravens. But, in his mind, he turned it over. The Ravens would beat the Wolfpack two or three times out of ten, and this would be one of those times.
“Take your time out there. Slow it down,” Coach Stewart told his players in the huddle during the break. “These guys think this has been their tournament since they got here last weekend, that it’s the final piece of their plan. Let’s make them wait. Unless a shot really opens up, just screams at you, use as much of the clock as you can. If they miss a couple, they’ll start to feel urgent and that’s when they’ll make mistakes.”
The Ravens continued to take their time on offence in the second quarter but the Wolfpack’s shooting caught fire. Then, the Ravens found themselves turning and running back on defence, after missed shots, far too often. The misses created frustration, which grew towards the end of the second quarter, after Bella Bella went on a 10-point run, including a couple of impressive threes. Suddenly, the Ravens were reaching in too much and trying to help out too much, abandoning their checks.
The thing is these were still kids. And just as they can change their minds a dozen times about what they want for Christmas or what they want to do on Friday night, they can suddenly become different creatures, brave then scared, confident then unsure, calm then nervous. That unpredictability, that volatility of emotion, that fragility, is what makes the Intermediate Boys Division such great drama.