(Author’s note: Every now and then I like to write a snippet of a novel waiting in the wings, introducing characters from the story. Last November, I shared the opening from Cassie’s Shot. Today, taking a mini break from editing, I selected another element from the story, centred on basketball playing Cassie.
For the other element posted, both as rough drafts, see inertial ignorance.)
All who watched or played against Cassandra Asako Corcoran on a basketball court never forgot the experience. Those who met the six-foot-four Cassie made similar claims, because this young woman lived life on her terms.
The youngest daughter of an Irish father and a Japanese mother, immigrants to the United States before her birth, Cassie dominated any room she occupied, with a striking amalgam of physical features gleaned from the best of both parents. Her appearance also set her apart. For these differences, Cassie learned to challenge and confront anyone who mocked her.
In her first year of high school, whispered remarks questioned her sexuality. Midway through basketball season, after she led her team to another easy victory, Cassie ended an interview with, “To those of you who believe knowing matters, yes, I am a lesbian.”
Now on the cusp of college graduation, Cassie’s world disintegrated into a swirling maelstrom of nightmare invading reality. Wendy, her partner of three years, died from ignorance and omission, the refusal of emergency medical technicians to treat an injured transgendered woman. Cassie attempted suicide a week later and failed, but a police investigator found a stash hidden by Wendy under the clawfoot tub in their apartment. The investigator claimed the find included a vial of anabolic steroids, to all who knew Cassie, a ridiculous assertion. Yet his claim and her national renown conspired into speculative assumption, and the whole country questioned the integrity of Cassie and the four Division B championships won by Three Sisters College.
Her parents whisked Cassie away to lake country, in part for her to recuperate, in part to take her away from the endless prying and judgements of wolfish media. Cassie fought for her right to mope during the first two weeks away, but came around, and today sunbathed on the private beach, lounge chair anchored in water covering her legs.
A slight southwest breeze fluttered her long midnight black hair, insisting one lock should be in her face. Cassie gave up the battle, and instead escaped the annoyance by drifting off into sleep.
Rewinding through time, Cassie returned to a place of bone chilling wind, accumulating snow, and a festive gathering in holiday spirit, a memory from her second year of college. A month before the snowy night, the Three Sisters basketball team lost its first game in thirty-nine to the second ranked team in Division A, United Carolina, at UCU’s expansive arena. Cassie knew the fourteen-point margin failed to represent the true scope of the defeat, and she pinned the blame on her awful play.
UCU players, despite playing for a Division A school most expect to beat Division B opponents, celebrated as if they won a championship. Six-foot-six Willow Green remarked she considered Cassie just another player, and in her opinion, a dozen other league players would outplay Cassie.
Division A schools only played the B teams as fodder with which to bloat their win totals for polls, scheduled to run up early season blowouts impressive to poll voters. When UCU’s Athletic Director scheduled TSC, he expected his perennial top ranked women’s squad would feast on the loveable losers.
He made the scheduling commitment the year before Cassie enrolled at TSC.
Cassie passed on the endless big school recruiting attempts. She liked the tradition of TSC, a women’s only school with a superb academic reputation. From the moment she arrived, Cassie changed basketball culture at TSC. The team ran through the schedule, winning every game and the national championship. The team won its first four at the beginning of her second year, but succumbed to UCU on their court. A month later in Philadelphia, fate brought the two teams together again, this time in the championship game of the Liberty Bell Holiday Invitational Tournament.
In her press comments after the first game, Willow Green failed to mention how she, in the final minutes of the first UCU-TSC meeting, taunted Cassie on court. With the game decided, TSC Coach Hightower pulled Cassie from the game wishing to avoid a confrontation, even though Green played centre and Cassie point guard. She knew Cassie, and knew she would find a way.
In the rematch, TSC obtained first possession. Cassie waited with the ball at the top of the key and looked to pass. Seeing her teammates covered and an open lane, she hard drove on the hoop, engaging a quick initial burst of speed. Green reacted by stepping into the open lane to defend and block. Cassie leapt a split-second before, her long-jump soar rendering meaningless Green’s extra two inches of height. Dexterous, she swapped the ball to her opposite hand. With arm outstretched, Cassie guided the ball to an angular carom off the glass and through the basket.
Forward momentum sent Cassie careening into Green, and both tumbled through a fall off the court, the two banging into fans in the first row. Green lay under Cassie and absorbed the brunt of the floor strike, while Cassie hit the spectators. The enraged Green shoved Cassie backward even as the TSC star tried to slide off. Neither yet knew a referee called a foul, ruling Green failed to establish defensive position.
The UCU bench went wild and sprung up as one, screaming at the referee. The angry protest earned a technical from the second referee. Green clambered to her feet oblivious, but catching the protest, joined in and earned her own technical. Cassie made the awarded four technical free throws plus the foul shot. TSC went up seven zip in the first eighteen seconds of play.
Cassie drove on Green four additional times in the first half, scoring each time. After the third, the frustrated Green left the low post and attempted to engage Cassie at her set up point along the key. Cassie pulled up and launched a three point shot high over the mouthy defender, the ball touching nothing but net.
TSC led by twenty-three at the half. Cassie scored twenty-one and finished the game with thirty-eight, plus eleven rebounds and seventeen assists, winning going away, 101 – 64.
In post-game interviews, reporters raised the issue of Green’s previous comment. Green responded with a one-word expletive.
Cassie offered her view. “UCU must play in a hell of a conference. I’m not going to get into the gist of her evaluation of me. Willow Green is entitled to her opinion. In fact, if Willow would like some private tutoring on how she can become a better basketball player and one of those elite players she mentioned, being a good sport, I would be happy to tutor her.”