May Contain Spoilers
Fujima subs in for Shoyo, and suddenly it’s a whole new ball game. He makes impressive plays, slides by defenders, and rallies the team to get more points on the board. Hanamichi is confused – how can a bench warmer thrash Shohoku like this?
Of course Fujima isn’t a bench warmer. He just sits out until he’s really needed because he’s also Shoyo’s coach. Hard to coach while you’re thundering up and down the boards, making your own plays. Fujima knocks Shohoku off track, and once again the guys are letting their self-doubts dominate their game.
This was an awesome read. Mitsui hasn’t played in a real contest of wills since middle school. Suddenly, with Shohoku trailing, he remembers how wonderful it feels to make plays happen. He plays best under pressure, and now the pressure is crushing. He turns into a scoring machine. Hanamichi, on the other hand, is struggling. With four fouls, he’s afraid to play aggressively, and Shoyo immediately targets him as the weak point for Shohoku’s team. They steamroll over him. Once again, it’s Rukawa who rallies the team, as well as Hanamichi, by implying that he’s too scared to play effectively. Yeah, that’s just the fire Hanamichi needed to ignite his inner competitiveness. Once his rival for Haruko’s affections mocks him, it’s game on!
All of the panels leading up to and immediately following Hanamichi’s slam dunk – wow! Even Hanamichi is dazed by the shot. I think that is the moment when he decided he really, really loved the game. Not just as a way to show off, but for the sake of the game itself. This was a fantastic installment of the series.
Grade: 4.25 stars
Review copy borrowed from my local library
About the book:
Shoyo’s ace, Fujima, drops himself into the lineup and quickly helps his team retake the lead from Shohoku, and despite struggling with fatigue, Mitsui stays on the floor as well. Realizing that they are the keys to winning the game, coach Anzai focuses on both Mitsui’s scoring finesse and Hanamichi’s monstrous rebounding, but with only five minutes left on the game clock, Shohoku will need to deliver, and fast. Which player will ignite the spark that will carry Shohoku on to victory? And does Mitsui have enough stamina left to hit some crucial three-pointers?