|== Forty Point Pronghorn ==
Terrence Tolliver (Pronghorn, G). Ask anyone outside of Pennsylvania, and all you’re likely to get is a blank stare. But to those in the know, the pronghorn is one of the best ballers of our day.
It seems it has always been Tolliver’s role to be overlooked. Ranked #2 in the 2013 FBA Draft, he slipped to pick #8. Despite consistent strong performance, he was not invited to the 2015 All-Star Week. When he went to free agency after the expiration of his rookie contract, only one team expressed any interest. Tolliver who?
He doesn’t say much. If his obscurity bothers him, he never lets it show. In the past, he was known as a pred-hater but he’s matured both as a fur and a player. These days, he plays basketball, and he plays it damn well. Pittsburgh Keystones fans consider their star ungulate a well-kept secret, and they like it that way.
The secret is out. Last night in a match against the Western Conference powerhouse Hawaii Kahunas, Tolliver became the first player this season to crest the lofty 40-point mark.
The game started innocuously enough. The Keystones won the opening tipoff and Tolliver started the contest with a 2-point shot from just inside the paint. The Kahunas responded with a 3 from Julian Cross-Kiraly (Saluki, G). Business as usual. Both teams kept laying it on, and the Keystones held a healthy 30-24 lead at the end of the first – 10 of those points from the hoofhands of Tolliver.
By the start of the fourth quarter, the Keystones lead had expanded to 91-69 and Tolliver had already racked up 27. With a comfortable cushion, coach Anton Schumacher (Eurasian Lynx, HC) let the bench players step up, rookie Erik Kijani (Leopard, G) and the matched set of tattooed opossums, Brandon Dreyvus (Opossum, F) and Aisha Card (Opossum, G). At the opposite end of the court, coach Richard Berk (Honey Badger, HC) seized the opportunity and mounted an attempt at a comeback. The Kahunas opened the quarter with a 9-0 run led by Teo Masalia (Black Panther, G) and Scoonie Barrett (Otter, F/C), helped by a pair of sloppy turnovers by Kijani.
Tolliver was not having any of that. The pronghorn took the court again and never left. With veteran partner Randy Catcher (Bullfrog, G) setting him up for shot after shot (the amphibian notched an impressive 10 assists on the night to earn a double-double), Tolliver quickly raised his total to 33. The Jumbotron operators, recognizing magic in the making, kept a running tally in giant numbers on the big screen, the count rising to 34 and then 35 off a pair of free throws. The crowd roared with each tally as the total crept inexorably higher, a layup bringing it to 37. Roars of “We want 40” boomed around the arena as the clock wound down.
Zack Tate (Zorilla, C) sunk a 2 and Catcher brought the ball back down the court. He passed to wide-open sophomore Shirley Takamoto (Jaguar, F/G), herself only one point away from double digits. The jaguar hesitated for a second, clearly capable of making the shot herself. Instead, she passed to Tolliver, outside the arc and well-guarded by Cross-Kiraly. The ball had barely even touched the pronghorn’s hands before it was once again in the air, sailing unstoppably to the net. Swish. Buzz. 3 points. 40 points. Thoroughly unnecessary and yet thoroughly worthwhile. The arena exploded as a giant black-and-gold ‘40’ flashed epileptically from the biggest screen in Western Pennsylvania and Tolliver was mobbed by his teammates.
The final score was 116 to 97. Tolliver earned his fourth Player of the Game honor in five games, but was typically low-key in the postgame interview: “I had a good night. Am I excited? Sure. But it was a team effort. We’re looking ahead to the Davis.”
As the jubilant fans spilled out into the night, the hashtag #40pointpronghorn spilled across Tweeter, at some point becoming joined by a photoshopped image of Tolliver sporting an anatomically-impossible rack. Welcome to fame, Terrence.
-S. St. James