This chapter took longer than expected. Had an absolute beast of uni work to do, and then had to update my other stories. Either way, this chapter is more devoted to expanding on the seemingly complex relationship of Yoko and Sakuragi, plus you can find out what Sakuragi was grinning about in the locker room.
Responses to reviewers:
Pikachu: Pick&Roll is such a huge part of basketball, so many teams just run a pick and roll and hope for the best. P&R is suited to Shohoku with Miyagi being so fast and able to penetrate the key. We'll see some more P&R before the end of the game. As for Yoko and Sakuragi, yeah she did reject him. However due to him helping her and protecting her from Oda, she slowly starts to gain affection for him through visiting and spending time with him when he's in rehab. Hopefully that clears some stuff up.
Girl with the green scarf: More HanaYoko so I don't bore you too much with basketball details =P
To those reading, I really hope you enjoy this chapter.
Your feedback would be appreciated, am I doing things right? Wrong? Suggestions? Am I sane? Or am I just plain mad =P.
Either way, enjoy the next chapter!
Sakuragi had a huge grin on his face as he bounced up from the dunk, pumping a fist and jogging back on defense, full of energy. Ayako had noticed the sudden change, and slowly walked to Yoko who simply stood next to Anzai-sensei, quietly watching the game. Yoko glanced at Ayako, then looked back at the game quickly. Ayako didn't miss her happy smile. Ayako glared at her, before grinning.
"So," began Ayako, nudging Yoko, "what did you do to make Hanamichi so energetic? Or what did he do to you?"
Yoko simply smiled knowingly, her lips still tingling from where her lips had met his cheek. She turned to Ayako, a hint of red on her face.
"I have my ways" she said, her smile widening.
Sakuragi brought a hand to his cheek.
'Yoko-chan' he thought happily, turning to defend the basket from Kainan.
Rukawa sat on the bench, watching the game. He stared at Sakuragi who had improved tremendously. Their rivalry would reach new heights, he knew. However Rukawa was also a winner, and things began to fall into place in his head.
'Winning the National Championship' he thought.
His eyes widened slightly when he realised that it was possible. Miyagi, Mitsui, Rukawa, Iowata, Hanamichi...it was possible. Anzai-sensei noticed Rukawa's head move just the slightest.
'So Rukawa-kun has realised that his team has the potential to win a title' thought Coach Anzai.
It was at this moment, Rukawa wanted to get out onto the court more than ever, to help lead this team to a National Title.
Kiyota weaved through traffic, using his athleticism to shoot over Takeshi with a tough fadeaway jump shot after getting past Miyagi. It sunk in.
38(K) – 25(S)
Miyagi took the ball from Takeshi who inbounded the ball. Slowly he bounced the ball until he reached the three point line. At this point, Sakuragi shifted, screening for Miyagi. Miyagi exploded into the lane, throwing the ball to the left while turning his head right as a fake, the ball shooting out of his hand to Shiozaki. Shiozaki, now a second year had worked on his game, improving. He caught the ball at the three point line, and took a shot. It went in. Shiozaki grinned as he jogged back down the court, while the bench players cheered for him. He wasn't a star, but he was developing into a fine role 's dunk and Shiozaki's three had reinvigorated the Shohoku crowd, who were shouting and yelling.
36(K) – 28(S)
"DEFENSE!" erupted the Shohoku crowd.
Miyagi crouched low, his eyes on Kiyota, who threw the pass to Shiro. Shiro pump faked, seeing Sasoaka shift slightly forward. Shiro exploded to his left, cutting through to the lane. Seeing Sakuragi shift forward to defend the basket, Shiro passed it to Watashi. Watashi's eyes lit up as he saw the open lane, however watched as Kakuta stepped into his path.
'Fool' he thought.
Watashi took a bounce as he exploded with two steps to dunk the ball over Kakuta. However Kakuta jumped up straight, his arms held up high. He was being challenged. Watashi roared as he moved to dunk the ball over Kakuta, however another hand slammed into the ball, sending it out of bounds. Watashi's eyes widened at the long arms of Sakuragi who had helped Kakuta defend against Watashi.
A roar broke out from the Shohoku crowd. The energy was fueling the Shohoku team. Sakuragi slammed his chest into Kakuta's, in approval of their teamwork. Watashi frowned, before moving to his position. Shiro inbounded the ball to Kiyota, who moved around the three point arc to the top, looking for a passing or driving option. Miyagi saw Kiyota's eyes flicker to the left and he exploded. He quickly tapped the ball out of Kiyota's hand and chased it down. Kiyota's eyes widened as he spun and gave chase. Miyagi managed to save the ball which was about to trickle out of bounds, and burst down the court in an amazing burst of speed.
"GO MIYAGI!" screamed Ayako.
"So fast!" shouted Hinamori, standing up.
Miyagi in full flight was a joy to watch, as he streamed down court, Kiyota trying to keep up. As Miyagi reached the three point line, Kiyota stopped sprinting, jogging slowly as Miyagi lay-ed up the ball easily. He raised his hand into a fist and the crowd cheered.
36(K) – 30(S)
Riki stomped over to the scorers bench, for a timeout.
"Timeout!" shouted the referees.
The Shohoku players moved into the huddle, smiling and cheering while their fans cheered also. Finally, they quieted down to see Anzai-sensei, a tiny smile on his white buddah face.
"Mitsui-kun, Rukawa-kun, Yasuda-kun, Takeshi-kun, Iowata-kun, you will substitute on. Yasuda control the offense and play to your strengths. Do your best, we are closing on the gap" said Anzai.
The Shohoku team nodded, and the five walked out onto the continued to use their starting 5. From there, it became an absolute shootout. Shiro hit a 3 pointer, before Mitsui shot one right back. Jin decided to come in on the action and shot a 3. Mitsui then again replied with a 3 of his own, with a pass from Yasuda. It was a contest of shooters, Mitsui and Jin. Neither of them having any intention of backing down.
42(K) – 36(S)
"You've improved Mitsui-kun" said Jin, as they jogged down the court together.
"So have you Jin. You've been slowly adding to your game" replied Mitsui.
"I will win this duel" said Jin with a smile.
Mitsui grinned back.
"I wouldn't count on it" he said.
Rukawa took off from the wing, however was forced baseline by good defense from Shiro. He passed it back to Yasuda who passed to Takeshi in the post. Takeshi took a hook shot which missed, but Iowata managed to grab the rebound. Iowata jumped up to lay up the ball but Watashi's hand slapped it out of bounds. He roared, pounding his chest.
"WATASHI!" shouted the Kainan supporters.
The energy shifted back to Kainan with the huge rejection. Iowata frowned, but got back into position. The ball was quickly inbounded by Takeshi to Iowata who was still standing in the key. Iowata quickly used the opportunity to score a quick layup. Watashi was fuming.
"Stay focused" said Jin quietly.
Watashi nodded, and jogged back down the court.
"Kiyota, give me the ball" said Jin.
Kiyota glanced at him and nodded. As soon as Kiyota reached the three point line, he passed to Jin, who stood diagonal to the basket on the three point line. Jin stared down at Mitsui, who was in position. Jin's eyes then caught Watashi who quickly moved, screening for Jin on the left side. Jin dribbled to the left, Mitsui shouting "Screen!"
Iowata moved to cover Jin, while Watashi rolled back to the basket, Mitsui having no option but to defend him. Iowata instantly moved to double team Watashi, who threw it over Iowata's hands to Jin. Jin jumped in the air as soon as he caught the ball, shooting for 3. Rukawa who had seen the play develop, had quickly run from Shiro to Jin, but was too slow. Jin's ball sunk in easily.
"JIN-kun!" shouted the girls in the Kainan team.
Jin blushed slightly, scratching his head and jogging back on defense.
45(K) – 36(S)
"Yasuda" shouted Mitsui.
Yasuda instantly threw the ball around Jin who had stepped inside to help, which fell into Mitsui's arms. Mitsui instantly jumped, shooting the ball perfectly as Jin scrambled to defend. Swish. Nothing but net again.
"MICCHAN!" shouted the girls.
Mitsui gave a smug grin as he jogged back on defense, punching fists with Yasuda. Mitsui was enjoyable for the girls to watch, especially as he was a former bad-boy, making all the more attractive in the love-struck eyes of the girls. Most of the core Shohoku players had their own little fan-squads, although most still belonged to Rukawa, much to Rukawa's dismay.
45(K) – 39(S)
Shiro and Rukawa meanwhile had their own mini-duel, weaving up and down the court, to see who would tire out first. Shiro received the ball from Kiyota and quickly turned for a mid-range jumper. Rukawa was caught off guard as Shiro instantly shot the fadeaway, scoring. Shiro simply grinned while Rukawa frowned.
47(K) – 39(S)
This time Mitsui passed to Rukawa, who took it to the rack hard. He weaved in traffic, throwing up a tough layup that scored, over two Kainan players. Rukawa glanced back at Shiro, before running up the court. Shiro clapped his hands together angrily, before jogging back on offense.
47(K) – 41(S)
Watashi received the pass in the post from Kiyota. He shifting his body weight backwards, before posting up on Iowata. Watashi shifted his body, hooking the shot over his shoulder and scoring over Iowata, who simply wasn't big enough to contain him and simply held his arm outstretched, not picking up the foul.
49(K) – 41(S)
"Hanamichi-kun" said Yoko, turning to him on the bench, gulping down Wootenergy.
"Yoko-chan?" asked Sakuragi.
Motioning to the bench players, they shifted away to give room for Yoko to sit.
"This game will be won on whether you are able to stop WatashiHanamichi-kun" she said, watching as Watashi grabbed the defensive rebound off the Takeshi miss with a roar.
"I've been winning most of the matchups with him" said Sakuragi.
"Yes you have, but you need to stop his influence on the defensive end. I give you permission to shoot 3's" said Yoko with a smile as Sakuragi's eyes lit up and a smile popped onto his face.
"Don't overdo it, no more than two threes if you miss okay" commanded Yoko sternly.
Sakuragi just grinned, thinking back to the time when he had shot 3's.
"Hanamichi-kun, we are going to shoot 3's today" instructed Yoko, bouncing the ball around expertly.
Sakuragi was surprised.
"Why would I need to shoot 3's when I'm a center?" asked Sakuragi.
Yoko simply smiled at him.
"Because then you could be even harder to guard. Wouldn't you like to outscore Rukawa in a game?" she asked.
Sakuragi's eyes lit up at this and Yoko couldn't help but laugh, throwing him a ball.
"Where do I begin?" he asked.
"There are 5 main spots that players shoot three pointers from. Two from each side of the baseline, two at the diagonal end, and one at the top of the three point line.
End of Flashback
As the timeout was called by Shohoku, the starters moved back onto the court.
"Hanamichi-kun, remember to stay away from the paint. Draw Watashi out and shoot jumpers" instructed Yoko.
Hanamichi nodded and moved off. Anzai waved over Yoko, who walked towards him.
"What did you instruct Hanamichi-kun to do?" asked Anzai-sensei.
"To stay away from the paint if possible, and to draw Watashi out" replied Yoko.
"Did you give him permission to shoot 3's?" asked Anzai.
Yoko simply grinned back.
The Kainan team was surprised when Sakuragi didn't take his place in the paint, rather standing on the baseline 3 point line.
"Don't guard him, protect the paint" shouted Riki to Watashi.
Watashi nodded, sticking closely to the paint area. Miyagi glanced over at Sakuragi, who stood in the ready position, to shoot if the ball came to him. Miyagi shrugged, passing to Mitsui who was near Sakuragi. Mitsui shot a look at Miyagi who shrugged. Jin covered him tightly, and so Mitsui also shrugged, passing to Sakuragi. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Sakuragi let the shot fly, and it hit nothing but net.
"Rebound King shot, and hit a 3?" shouted the crowd in disbelief, before the Shohoku supporters screamed at the score.
"REBOUND KING!" they screamed.
"TENSAI!" shouted Mitsui, Miyagi and Sakuragi at the same time.
Yoko jumped up and cheered loudly. Riki swore, calling a timeout, while Yoko simply gave Ayako a mischievous grin. High fives were exchanged among the players, excluding Rukawa and they moved to gather around Anzai-sensei.
49(K) – 44(S)
"Ho ho ho, not bad Sakuragi-kun. See how much you can drag Watashi away from the basket, but don't neglect your mid-range jumper. You are far better shooting from mid-range than from 3" said Anzai-sensei.
Sakuragi, who was beaming happily nodded.
"Rukawa-kun, you are ready to use your energy and not conserve it?" asked Anzai-sensei, turning to the Ace.
Rukawa simply nodded.
"Miyagi-kun, I trust you to distribute and direct the offense accordingly," Anzai-sensei said, after stroking his chin for a few moments.
Yoko and Sakuragi meanwhile were grinning at each other, neither really paying that much attention to Anzai or the team huddle.
"So, do I get a kiss for shooting a 3?" teased Sakuragi, nudging her slightly.
Yoko slapped him on the cheek lightly with a light blush, before motioning with her hand for him to bend down slightly. She then quickly pecked his cheek and rolled her eyes dramatically.
"You know you love me" joked Sakuragi, winking at her suggestively before jogging back onto the court, avoiding her kick.
Yoko simply blushed brightly and fumed slightly at the audacity of the red haired player, while Ayako saundered over to her grinning.
"What was that huh?" asked Ayako with a sly smile.
"Motivation" deadpanned Yoko, staring at Ayako.
Ayako stuck out her tongue at Yoko, before they turned back to the game.
The game is coming to a wrap soon!
Hope you enjoyed it!
Thanks for reading and supporting MVP Sakuragi Hanamichi!
Until Next Time