Summer 2024

Daily Devotional: Friday, January 12 - The Full-Court Press Of Life

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:4-7

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Although it was the favorite, No. 3-seed Texas A&M found itself on the ropes in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, trailing 11th-seeded Northern Iowa, 69-57, with about 44 seconds left to play. A basket 10 seconds later cut the lead to 10, but anyone watching assumed this would end with a few fouls, some free throws and another NCAA Tournament upset.

But a quick steal and basket cut the deficit to eight, and with 25.8 seconds left, Texas A&M started believe there was a chance at a comeback. The defense quickly went into a full-court press and immediately trapped Northern Iowa’s Paul Jesperson on the baseline after the inbounds pass. With nowhere else to go, Jesperson tried to throw the ball out of bounds off a defender, but instead threw it right into the hands of Texas A&M’s Jalen Jones, who dunked it to cut the lead to six with 21.7 seconds left.

The Aggies went right back into a full-court press and forced an errant inbounds pass that gave them the ball under their own basket. A few seconds later, Danuel House buried a 3-pointer that brought Texas A&M to within three points with 19.6 seconds left to play, but Northern Iowa answered right back to make it a two-possession game.

The Aggies scored and were fouled, then made the free throw to make it a two-point game. Once again, Texas A&M’s full-court press trapped a Northern Iowa player, who also attempted to throw it off a defender but instead threw it into the hands of A&M, who laid it in to tie the game with 1.9 seconds left.

After the improbable comeback in the waning seconds of regulation, Texas A&M went on to win in double-overtime and advance to the Sweet 16. The Aggies’ full-court press was a major contributor. Because teams have only five seconds to inbound the ball and 10 seconds to get it across the half-court line, the full-court press puts pressure on the offense and often forces turnovers or violations. When done effectively, a full-court press forces the offense to move much faster than normal and make quick decisions. Usually, the faster a team is forced to operate, the more likely they are to make mistakes.

Good teams practice how to break a press. They practice knowing exactly what to do when the pressure comes and where it comes from. They know where their teammates will be and where to look in order to make a clean pass to maintain possession. But there are times when the pressure is just too much and players usually make one of two decisions — a bad pass that leads to a turnover, or they call a timeout. Instead of forcing a bad pass that might give the ball back to their opponent, they stop the play altogether and allow their team a chance to regroup and strategize.

Ultimately, good teams have a game plan that allows them to handle a press methodically and without feeling rushed or panicked. But even good teams — like Northern Iowa proved to be in 2016 — are capable of letting the pressure of a full-court press cause them to scramble and make mistakes.

The same is true for us as Christians when life speeds us up or puts pressure on us — even for those who are prepared and grounded in the Lord.

We must always have a game plan for when life puts pressure on us, when we’re facing a full-court press from temptation, stress, anxiety or anything in between. Instead of compounding the pressure by turning the ball over, look for a teammate or call a timeout. Reset your game plan and strategy. Talk it over with God, slowly and methodically, through prayer.

As Paul writes in Philippians 4 (see above), the Lord is near to us in our times of stress and He wants us to call on Him when we feel the pressures of this world. When we do, He fills us with a peace that is beyond comprehension.

Cole Claybourn

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