Clutch opportunity comes up short


"I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed." -- Michael Jordan

In my life, I have had this saying that used to get me through some tough situations. It goes like this, "Learn from the past, live for the future, have no regrets and show no fear." This little quote that I have tagged as my own says a lot and means so much more to me. I am running it through my mind at this very moment because of what happened this weekend. It was a learning experience for me and one of the craziest atmospheres I have ever been in.

On the way to our first road game, I was sitting on a charter bus on Saturday afternoon to the airport. The team was sitting in the back of the bus while our whole support staff was toward the front. We were playing our favorite team game -- catch phrase. It was getting loud and everyone was into the game. Before I knew it, we were sitting still at a private entrance to the airport. I thought to myself, "Wow this is crazy! I am sitting on a charter bus, in front of a private entrance and our jet is waiting right here for us!" This was just too cool in my eyes. The words "first class" would probably work for this situation.

Our jet landed in Knoxville, Tenn., and, yet again, a charter bus was waiting for us as we exited the plane. After all the luggage was put under the bus, we were off. Our next stop was our hotel to drop off our bags. So, me and my roommate for this trip, Laura Berry, put our stuff up, claimed our beds and went back to the lobby. It was time to go to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, which was right beside our hotel. It was so unbelievable! The history and all the old jerseys and other things were really cool to look at. It even had basketball goals on the first floor of the building where you could shoot. They had a really old wooden goal, a regulation size goal and one that was like eight feet tall. Of course, Cetera [DeGraffenried] had to try and dunk on the eight foot goal. After a few attempts she actually got it. It must be something about being short that attracts them to dunking on smaller goals. Finally, we finished up with our tour and it was off to Calhoun's for dinner.

We had already ordered our food on Thursday so it would be ready when we got there. I ordered a half rack of ribs, a salad and key lime pie. It was really good and I was stuffed beyond reason. We all got back on the bus and headed back to the hotel for a little bit of film. Curfew for the night was 11:30. It could have been 9:30 and I would not have cared because we were all worn out from traveling. Another reason I was excited to sleep was because of the beds. They were so comfortable. It was like you were floating on a cloud or something and it did not take me long to fall into a deep sleep.

The next morning, breakfast was downstairs in the hotel's restaurant. I was still kind of full from Calhoun's, but I still ate some breakfast. We finished eating and watched more film. After film, we headed to Thompson Bowling Arena (where Tennessee plays its home games) for a shootaround. Carolyn Peck and Beth Mowins from ESPN were at our shootaround. Toward the end, we split up and had a shooting competition. Coach Hatchell brought everyone out to participate. We had athletic trainers, media people, and of course she brought Beth and Carolyn out. Beth was on my team and the competition was tight the whole time. The other team won by about two seconds and they made sure we knew about it. Somebody was getting on Carolyn because she did not make one shot the whole time. That was a really fun way to end the shoot around.

We had about three hours to relax. Then we would have pre-game meal. I went to my room and just watched TV, then went downstairs and ate. We finished and had a bible study that was led by coach Charlotte Smith. After that, we packed up and went back to Thompson Bowling for the game.

The buzzer sounded and it was finally time to play. It was neck and neck the whole game. There were about four different times where we fell behind by10 or 11 and we always came fighting back. If there is one thing you should know about my team, it is the fact that we will not give up. We are competitors and we are coming together more and more with each game. It came down to the last couple of minutes of the game and we were down by just a few. We got a steal and finished with a layup. A few more seconds passed and we fouled. Someone fouled out and I was put back into the game. They made the free throws and then a timeout was called. With about 13 seconds left on the clock, we were down and needed a 3-pointer.

We huddled and coach Hatchell told us to get a good look at a three. Italee Lucas brought the ball down the floor and she was flying down my side. Alexis Hornbuckle was on me. I faked baseline and received the hand off from Italee around the right side of the wing. I took off toward the top of the key and was about to release the ball. The form was perfect as I let it go and then smack. A whistle was blown as I watched the ball fly toward the basket. If you know anything about me and basketball, then you know that I live for situations like this. I was an 89-percent, free throw shooter in high school and had not missed a free throw yet in college. I was very confident heading to the line. The first one bounced in with more than 18,000 people screaming at me. I looked in our cheering section and saw my dad pumping his fist. I received the ball again, down by two, and looked at the goal. The crowd was screaming, I'm sure, but I was in my own little world. I was telling myself how to shoot in my mind. I got ready to release and I allow my elbow to slip a little to the right. I missed the free throw. I was so mad at myself because I don't miss free throws. I just don't. So I had to deliberately miss the third and I threw it too hard and did not hit the rim. Tennessee got the ball and threw it long for a layup and won by four.

I am my toughest critic and I will admit I am very hard on myself. I know that there were a lot of different factors that could have been changed for us to win. I also know that it wasn't entirely my fault, but I can't help but be hard on myself for missing. I had the opportunity to take a clutch shot in a very big game. I wouldn't change a thing. We showed a lot of heart in this game and a lot of guts. As a competitor you have to learn from past mistakes and live for the future. I went to the gym Monday and made about 50 straight free throws and shot some 3-pointers as well. I can almost promise that if put in the same situation in the future, the outcome will be different. I will learn from past experiences and stuff that won't kill me will definitely make me stronger.

It will be a week of nothing but semester finals and practice for me. I have some papers to write and a lot of studying to do. So remember, learn from your past experiences and shake them off. Live for the future because it is something that can be very bright. Do not have any regrets and do not show any fear in any situation you will be thrown into. Life is too short to waste a day being sad, mad or upset so keep your heads up.

"Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation." -- Michael Jordan

Stay cool and keep ballin' ya'll!

Rebecca "Bee" Gray is a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was ranked 47th in the 2007 class and an Honor Roll selection by HoopGurlz.com. She was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School, where she also finished as its career scoring leader with 2,907 points.

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