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Crossing midcourt into Garfield territory, Marcum juggles the ball for an instant. McCoy swipes at it and suddenly there is a loose ball squiggling around the court. Garfield's Mike Hardy grabs it and passes to Hodge, who calls time out. Thirteen seconds.
Gillespie chooses the play. Hodge is to bounce the ball inbounds to Chapman and break for the corner. Chapman will be guarded now by the talented Kolesar, but Gillespie wants only his two best ball handlers to touch the ball. After Hodge has faked toward the corner, he's to cut inside to the key. Chapman will throw the ball near the key in the desperate hope that Hodge has managed to get there.
Like any good coach in the final seconds of a close game, McCollum believes in giving his players only the most fundamental instructions. Once a game is actually under way, he dispenses with his platitudes, but what he tells his team now is as obvious as his corniest slogan: "Keep the ball away from Hodge." Reading Gillespie's mind, McCollum adds that since Hodge is the best Garfield passer, he will probably throw the ball inbounds and then try to position himself to get it thrown back. He also tells Grammel to make a wall in front of Hodge on the inbounds play so Hodge won't even be able to see his teammates, much less get the ball to one of them.
Grammel looms over Hodge while Hodge looks for somewhere to throw the ball. Grubbs comes over to help out Grammel. When Hodge feints a bounce pass, Grubbs and Grammel are a jungle of legs. When he considers throwing over them, they seem a forest of arms.
Urgent, possessed, Hodge catapults himself above the defenders. In the air, he hangs for what seems a full second, as though a platform had suddenly sprung up to hold him. Chapman has faked himself clear of Kolesar for an instant to receive the ball Hodge rifles to him. Surrounded, Hodge darts for the corner as Gillespie has directed. Then he cuts toward the basket. The key is so crowded he cannot get near it. Chapman looks for his own shot but there is none. He dribbles out toward midcourt while waiting for Hodge to get open. Hodge breaks away from the key, heading in the wrong direction with four seconds showing on the clock. Chapman releases the ball. Hodge dives for the pass and catches it. He's smothered by Tigers. He fights loose, throwing hips and elbows, and dribbles once. Falling away from 30 feet out, he airmails the ball. It smacks the rim and caroms straight into the air. Jones, underneath the basket, leaps and tips it in. The final buzzer brays.
The gym detonates, 2,200 throats in peril of rupture. The town's best game in years was tied 59-59 at the end of regulation play, Hamilton equaling Hamilton. The crowd owes the night to Hodge, and no one begrudges him the credit. From the Garfield side comes "Hodge! Hodge! Hodge!" and the Taft side echoes. The sound builds until no words at all can be heard. It's almost like silence, the gym roaring for a performance that on Broadway would get 10 curtain calls and in Madrid two ears and a tail.
Hodge, who had scored 21 points, seems propelled not by a hunger for victory but for excellence. Often he has performed almost alone, not ignoring his teammates the way ball hogs do, but using them to express his own impulses.
The overtime is anticlimactic and unsuspenseful. The score remains close enough, Garfield getting two more baskets, Taft three. But Grammel and Grevey are now in charge of the game that winds down like the clock itself. With two seconds to go Garfield gets the ball under its own basket. Never surrendering, Hodge yells at the teammate with the ball, "Call time out!" Hodge's teammate has already flung the ball in a despairing full-court are toward the Taft basket. The ball is stopped by a girder at the top of the gym as the buzzer sounds, with Taft winning 66-64.
As the Taft and Garfield cheerleaders line up together at center court, both teams and their coaches envelop Hodge in congratulations. A Tiger and a Griffin momentarily carry Hodge on their shoulders. He blinks in embarrassment and slithers down to the floor. Gillespie puts his arm around Hodge as the assembled cheerleading squads send out a last yell:
Hamilton, couldn't be prouder;