I grabbed the official by the elbow and steered him away from the players. I put my face close to his and whispered loudly, "You can't do that to a kid." I kept my grip on his arm. "It's not right. You can't put pressure on a little kid like that. Look. We're losing by one point, right? No time on the clock, right? He'll miss them both. He's a terrible foul shooter. He'll be devastated. C'mon. Just forget the foul. O.K.?"
"You kidding?" said the referee.
"No. Of course not."
"Then you'll lose the game."
"That's O.K.," I said.
Then he shrugged. "I'm sorry," he said. "I already told the kids there was a foul. You want to tell them to forget about it?"
I stared at him for a moment, then shook my head. "No. I can't tell them that."
"Then the kid's gotta shoot the fouls."
I went back to the bench and called the players over. Paul was alone on the floor with the two officials. The players were jumping around and shouting gleefully, "C'mon, Paul. Make 'em, Paul."
I wondered how I was going to console the poor kid. He had played a wonderful game. His baskets in the first half had kept us close. His basket toward the end gave us the chance. Could an 11-year-old cope with standing all alone, with the game on the line, his team losing by a single point, and no more time left?