The Claremont tigers were a wily bunch when they first stepped on the court. They were raw talent, rough around the edges, to say the least.
The Tigers were a team made mostly of wiry 3rd graders that tripped over their own toes and had never touched a basketball. Josh, Caleb, and Brandon worked hard to refine their skills, knowing there was a champion in all of them, because they all had the motivation, determination, and the heart of the tiger.
"We know we can do it," they thought, "We're the team that can."
The team leadership, two fourth graders, were comprised of a seasoned basketball veteran who had been playing with his older brother's since birth, Henry, and the lanky, fumbley Elijah, who quitely put all his effort into stealthily stealing, driving, and shooting.
"We can do this. We can win." They said to themselves, "We are the team that can."
The team was rounded out by one 2nd grader, Alexander Ford, a secret weapon, whose future goal is to be an NBA all-star, but hadn't played a game in his life.
"We can be the best. I know we can." he said to himself.
They were lead by Big Coach Jon, life-long player, experienced coach, and giant.
"We have natural talent. We have hope, determination, and motivation. We can be the best." he thought.
The team started training at square one: how to dribble.
Each player started pounding the basketball to the court, up down, up down, eyes glued before the ball hit an angle and flew across the court.Their first game was a flurry of chaos.There were fouls called for grabbing and reaching. Kids ran, football-style, with the basketball. The basketball got kicked down the court. Picks turned into football style tackles. Shots missed the backboard. Players tripped over their own feet.Game one the Mighty Tigers lost 21-14.The Tigers were mad and frustrated."The referee must not like us." some said."It was all your fault," players accused, pointing fingers at each other."How could WE lose?" They growled."TIGERS!" Coach Jon roared, "We need to stick together, like a pack. We need to be the best we can be. We can be the best."The Tigers grumbled. They complained. They tried to make their loss someone else's fault.They blamed the Referee's. They blamed the other team. They blamed the color of their uniforms and their clumsy feet.Then they lost again."TIGERS!" Coach Jon roared, "We all need to be the best we can be and work together as a team. If anybody can be the best, We are the team that can."The Tigers looked at each other.They shook their heads, "Yes, we'll be the best we can be. We'll play the best we can for the team."At practice, slowly but surely, things started to change. The tigers began to dribble with ease, the ball staying at their fingertips.Games were still lost, but only by 4 or 6 points.Players still tripped and fumbled, but they could also slide with the ball, raise their arms, and defend the hoop like ferocious cubs protecting their den.Floating passes turned to bounce passes.Air balls turned into focused jump shots or lay-ups.Half way through the season, the mighty tigers won their very first game!There was celebrating, but the Mighty Tigers knew they could do better. They wanted to be the best. They knew they could.The Final game of the town tournament started slow.The Tigers were nervous.Every player had doubts running through their head, "What if I don't do well?" "What if they steal the ball?" "What if I miss the shot?" "Will we lose because of me?"These thoughts chained the Tigers. Their feet dragged. They lobbed passes. Their shots hung harmlessly in the air.With 3 minutes left the mighty tigers were down by 10 points, 28-18.The crowd was getting fidgety. People had started packing their things in anticipation of a blow out loss.Caleb and Josh started Checking the clock, wondering how they'd ever come back."Time out!" Coach Big Jon hollered and the orange team shuffled in."This is your time, tigers. We can win this game. Keep passing. Do help defense, and get in to take those shots. Let's rally!!!" Came the war cry.A new team came out on that court.Henry came out and made a first lay-up and then a second jump shot.The game was now 22-28.Elijah stole the ball to regain possession.With two minutes left, Josh drove to the hoop for another 2 points.Then Henry stole the ball and with a pass to Elijah, the Tigers got another 2 points.Henry stole the ball again for a break way lay-up.With 20 seconds left, the tigers were winning!! They couldn't lose now!Then, with 7 seconds left in the game, the rival team scored!!The score was now Tigers 29, rival team 30.Coach Jon called a time-out.The Tigers had to focus. The team huddled into their pack and created a plan.There was 4 seconds left in the game.The whistle blew and the Tigers passed the ball onto the court to Henry.The gym went silent. You could hear a pin drop.Henry dribbled twice towards the hoop. He squared his shoulders. The ball was mid-air when the final buzzer rang and SWOOSH...The crowd erupted in cheers.THE TIGERS WON THE GAME!!The Tigers, the mighty team that could, won 31-30!"I knew you could!" Coach Jon said, as he high-fived the tigers and everybody celebrated, "We are The Mighty Tigers that Can."