Sam’s team surrounded him and together lifted him onto their shoulders. The home crowd cheered wildly, and the euphoria was like nothing Sam had ever felt before. Assisted by his best friend, Barrett, he had just scored the winning basket in the final seconds of his high school’s district championship.
As the seconds rolled off the clock and with his team down by one, Barrett had passed the ball to Sam. Sam had the opening to take the three-point shot. He was as amazed as anyone when the ball swished through the net as time ran out, and his Warriors won by a score of 73-71. The Warriors were advancing to the region.
As the team slid him off their shoulders and back to the ground, Barrett grabbed him in a bear hug.
“Great shot!” Barrett shouted over the crowd.
“Great pass!” Sam shouted back.
The cheering and shouting continued as the team made their way to the locker room. After showers and a few words from their very excited coach, Ryan and Seth, two of their teammates, approached Barrett and Sam.
“Hey guys, we’re going out for pizza to celebrate. Want to come?”
Barrett and Sam exchanged a glance. They had never been out with these guys before. Ryan and Seth had a reputation on the team for not always making the best decisions.
But, why not? They had been on the court in the final seconds of the game, too. And Barrett and Sam were both starving.
“Sure,” Sam said. “Sounds great.”
“We’ll take my car,” Ryan said. “See you out back.”
The guys finished getting dressed and grabbed their gym bags. When they got to the parking lot, which was dark and empty except for Barrett’s car across the lot, Ryan and Seth were waiting. Sam noticed they were smoking. He also noticed the strong smell of marijuana.
Ryan opened the trunk as Sam and Barrett approached. “You can put your gym bags in here,” Ryan said.
As Sam swung his bag off his shoulder, he stopped short. He and Barrett exchanged another glance. In the trunk was a case of beer. A small baggie of marijuana was open beside it.
Sam looked at Ryan.
Ryan laughed. “Lighten up, pussycat. It’s a celebration! Here, enjoy.”
Ryan handed Sam the joint, but Sam waved him off.
“I’m good,” Sam said.
“Seriously,” Seth chimed in. “Take it. It’s the best way to relax after a big game.”
“No, really. I’m good,” Sam said.
Barrett stepped into the conversation. “Look, guys. I’m starving. If we are going for pizza, we need to go. Sam and I will take my car and meet you there.”
Barrett started to walk away. Sam followed. Seth and Ryan both started swearing, calling Sam and Barrett every name they could think of.
When they got to Barrett’s car, the boys threw their bags in the back seat. They could still hear Seth and Ryan harassing them from across the parking lot.
“Well, that was fun,” Sam said sarcastically as Barrett started the engine and turned on the headlights.
“Yea,” Barrett agreed. “Those guys are headed for serious trouble.”
Just then, two police cruisers, with blue lights flashing, turned into the parking lot and headed straight for Barrett and Sam.
“Whoa. What’s going on?” Sam said.
“I have no idea,” Barrett said.
The policemen jumped out of the car with guns drawn. One officer shined a bright light into the car.
“Hands on the dash!” They shouted at the boys.
Barrett and Sam quickly complied.
“Now, open the door slowly and step out!”
Both Sam and Barrett opened their doors and stepped out.
“Hands on your heads! Move to the front of the car!”
After the two boys stood side by side in front of the car, one of the officers stepped from behind the light and approached them. He shined a flashlight in their eyes.
Then, he asked, “We’ve had a report of drug activity up here tonight. Would you know anything about that?”
Sam hesitated. Barrett spoke up.
“Yes, sir. There are some guys on the other side of the parking lot …” Before he could finish, the sound of Ryan’s car engine startled the officers. As Ryan hit the gas, the car careened slightly then flew toward the exit.
“Get him! Go! Get him!” The officer questioning Barrett and Sam shouted. “I’ll call for back up. You, boys! Down on the ground. Down on the ground now! Hands on your head!”
Barrett and Sam fell to the ground.
The other officer jumped in his cruiser and hit the blue lights, speeding after Ryan’s car. The first officer called for backup on his radio.
A few minutes later he returned to the boys, who were still lying on the ground. Neither had said a word.
“OK. Stand up, but hands where I can see them,” the officer instructed.
Both boys stood.
“Now, tell me what’s going on.”
Barrett spoke up. “We just finished the district basketball game, and Ryan and Seth, our teammates, asked us to go for pizza to celebrate.”
“The guys in the other car?” The officer asked.
“Yes, sir,” Barrett said. “When we got to their car, they had beer and a little pot. They offered it to us, but we turned them down.”
“You didn’t smoke it?” The officer asked.
“No, sir,” both boys said.
“Not even one hit?”
“No, sir,” they said again.
“OK. I don’t smell it on you, and your eyes aren’t bloodshot or dilated. But tell me this, why are you guys hanging out with guys like that?”
Barrett sighed. “We’ve never been out with them before. They invited us. We’re all on the same team. We never expected this.”
Just then a call came in on the radio. Through the crackly static, Sam and Barrett heard, “We got ‘em and the drugs. We found lots worse after we searched the car. We’re loading them into the cruiser now.”
The officer clicked off and turned to the boys. “OK. I’m going to search your car. If I don’t find anything, I’ll let you go. I’m going to handcuff you both and put you in the cruiser until I finish the search.”
Both boys nodded. After the search turned up clean, the officer let them both out of the cruiser and uncuffed them.
“OK. You guys can go.”
“Yes, sir,” the boys said, rubbing their wrists.
As they got in the car, Sam said to Barrett, “Whew. Thanks for just walking away. This could have gone a lot worse.”
“Anytime,” Barrett said. “Anytime.”
This story was first published in SENA, a youth devotional magazine.