THE FIRST THIRD of the season continued well for the Bobcats as they surprised the next four western division teams. Tyee was averaging 21 points a game and Larry was picking up a mean 13 rebounds and 11 points per contest. Sylix also earned a double-double averaging 10 assists and 11 points per game. But the true test would come as the Bobcats faced each of the six eastern division members before finishing the season by playing the western division teams a second time. There would also be four challenging non-league games in between.

The first game of the crossover phase was with the St. Peter’s Patriots shortly before Christmas Vacation. It was the last league contest before the break. The Pats had big numbers at their school. They were the largest 1B school in the state and their administrators were sure to keep those numbers just under the 2B mark. They had dominated the league for several years and won the state championship two out of the past six seasons. This would be an especially tough game on the outskirts of Spokane.

Both boys and girls rode in the larger, mid-sized bus. Three hours later the teams arrived in Greenacres, a suburb of Spokane Valley. Spirit, Abel, and the boys watched intently as their schoolmates dominated the Lady Pats for three quarters. Spirit motioned his team to head to the locker room. After the boys suited up, Spirit instructed them, “All I expect of you boys is to bring your best for 32 minutes. We all know this is a tough team, but don’t pay attention to the scoreboard. With a strong effort we can give these guys a good game, a close game, and just maybe, we can catch them off guard, surprise them, and remain undefeated!”

The boys formed a truncated tunnel to congratulate the victorious girls. Warmups started with slow layins, defensive shifts, a 3-corner passing drill, then a 3-on-2 drill, and finished with free shooting. The Bobcat boys shot glances at the new, 6’6″, transfer post player for the Pats. Spirit studied him intently and surmised that the kid was ready for college ball.

The game seemed to last forever. Halftime found the Sinkiuse boys down 41-22. In the third quarter Spirit pleaded to the refs, “Hey, call a foul on the home team, even it up, we’re getting fouled. You’re terrible. Pull yur head out!” He yelled that out loudly and the gym was momentarily silent.

The bench side official admonished Spirit to be careful and threatened, but did not call, a technical foul. And the coach realized he had made a mistake. Above all he wanted to emphasize sportsmanship and now he had ignored his own words. A headache set in and Spirit was quiet throughout the rest of the game. Abel called a time out. Spirit apologized to his boys and tried to bolster their spirits. The game mercifully ended and after a hushed time in the locker room the teams were headed home.

On the way home Coach Kanaskat sat across from Spirit. With a 6-0 record Karen tried to contain herself and bolster Coach Sintasket’s mood. She was a well-respected member of the community, her husband was a long-standing council member, and Spirit admired the coach’s teaching techniques and coaching abilities in volleyball and basketball. Karen queried, “Have you spoken to Kay lately?”

“No, I’ve tried to contact her many times but no, I haven’t. Have you?”

“Well, I usually talk to her once or twice a month and I visit her for a girls’ weekend about once or twice a year. You know she still loves you Spirit. She talks about you and asks about you.”

“Huh, she has a peculiar way of showing love. How is she doing?”

“It’s her way. She’s proud of her work and feels worthwhile through her contributions. She knows it’s the same for you and she’s accepted that it’s gotta to be that way.”

Spirit remained quiet, deep in thought for the remainder of the journey home.