"A couple of years ago," he said soberly, "I discovered some of the boys on the team—all of the first five, in fact—were smoking and drinking. I passed on a warning and let it ride, hoping they'd sec the light. Well, there was this party. Cigarettes and beer. A couple of the boys joined in only because they knew if I found out and was going to do anything I'd have to go against them all. That's what I did. I made a clean sweep, and the next thing you know we're starting a bunch of sophomores—Brent and Wally and Joe and Lou. It was tough going for a while. I don't imagine I was too popular a fellow down at the pool hall. But it was a blessing in disguise. This team found itself. You'll see tonight. And I didn't have to worry about them. They made their own training rules and they abide by them. They're good boys."
Did they honest and truly give up girls on their own?
"Well, not exactly," said Davis, clearing his throat. "But rules are rules. Even now I have to get after them for standing around the halls mooning. There'll be plenty of time for that after the state tournament."
Principal LeFevre and his visitors stepped out into the hall. Basketball star Turek, tall and blond, and basketball star Riggs, short and brunet, were lounging by the locker of Cheerleader Mclanie McEwen, soft and dreamy. "See what Coach means?" said LeFevre. On the bulletin board there was a huge chart divided into 40 squares. The first few squares had been crossed off with bold black strokes. "Count-Down Calendar," read the title, and LeFevre explained that the girls had put up the poster as a reminder of that day of salvation when the ball boys, as they are called in Panguitch, would be freed from Davis' clutches. "Happy days are here again!" said the caption under the last square.
As part of the general displeasure with the rules, Sophomore Sandra Crofts had written a poem (English Teacher Irene McEwen, Melanie's lovely mother, is very strong on poetry). The poem was called "Ball Season," and it portrayed the grim life of the boyless world of Panguitch girls and the girlless world of basketball players. "In bed every night, right at 10," Sandra had written sagely. "Being on the team is like being locked in a pen." She went on to say that all a girl does every day is go home to mother, and predicted that soon the girls will be dousing their hair with Brylcreem for something to run their fingers through.
The Panguitch gym was filled to popping for the game with Bryce Valley. In a front-row seat Hot Rodney Duggins, the doctor's son, pointed out that on both sides the fans were sticking out onto the playing court. This was all right, he said, because it made it impossible for a Panguitch player to go out-of-bounds. Rodney's father leaned over to say that in days past, when crowds were not so orderly, the corners of the playing floor would actually round off with people.
The Panguitch junior varsity players won the preliminary game as the key decisions by the two officials, both Panguitch High faculty members, consistently went in their favor. "Think they're prejudiced?" said Rodney, winking wildly. Dr. Duggins said that this was, after all, just the preliminary, but he remembered a Panguitch varsity game in Marysvale when the timekeeper kept the clock between his knees, hidden from view, and the last 17 seconds took half an hour. "Then there was the referee who gave the opposition the ball while Panguitch was out getting a drink of water. The other team scored," said Dr. Duggins, "and one of our lady fans fainted on the spot." By this time the preliminary game was over and Official Maloy Dodds came over to join the conversation. When he was playing for Panguitch, he said, the ladies of Escalante used to line the street outside after a game and throw their high-heeled shoes at the Panguitch players.
The varsity game began, and Dr. Duggins noted with pride that he had delivered every boy on the starting team. "The starting teams of both schools," he added. Melanie McEwen and her cheerleaders soon had the metal-roofed Panguitch gym, the exact acoustical equivalent of a rural mailbox, rocking with repetition: "Baskets! Baskets! Baskets, boys!/You make the baskets, we'll make the noise!" The boys responded, after a slow start, and soon were making baskets as fast as Melanie's group could suggest them.
Still, Bryce Valley, which had won only once previously, clung to the lead. It was sacrilege, said a Panguitch father. Coach Davis called for time. "Posing," he said to the Bobcats. "You saw a photographer out there and you started posing." He sat back down. "Slow starts, slow starts," he muttered. "Times like this we couldn't throw the ball into the Great Salt Lake." Lou Tibbs slumped beside him, momentarily relieved of his job at forward. "Have you ever seen a worse basketball player than me?" he asked. "I think I probably have," said Coach Davis absently.
The tide, inexorable as it always is for the better, taller team, began to change. Joe Riggs made six straight points, and Brent Turek and Wally Ortman seemed to get every rebound. Six, eight, 10, 20 ahead. The Bobcats piled it on.