If Gary and Jocelyn could show their faces for the television cameras with their 16-year-old son not yet in the ground—
If the Trappist monks of New Melleray Abbey in rural Iowa could build a walnut casket from their own sustainable forest and send it free of charge 365 miles to Fennville in a minivan that drove through the night—
If the opposing Lawrence Tigers could look at Wes in that casket one day and still try to beat his team the next—
Then maybe Xavier could hold it together.
His stomach churned as he knelt before the scorer's table, waiting to check in as a ceremonial substitute. No matter: Everyone knew he was starting at point guard, just as Wes would have done.
Nine boys stood at midcourt, wiping dust from the soles of their shoes.
The substitution buzzer sounded.
Now entering the game for the Fennville Blackhawks, number 33, Xavier—
Applause drowned out the announcer's voice. Xavier had never heard such a crowd: about 3,500 people, more than double the population of Fennville, most of them screaming for the Blackhawks.
Xavier looked shaky on the first possession, after Fennville won the tip. He nearly lost the dribble at the top of the key. But after an awkward series of passes he found Pete Alfaro open in the left corner for a three. Fennville 3--0. The crowd roared.