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Basketball friendly a big hit

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1999-05-14

Last Saturday afternoon, a practice basketball game between Kadena Middle School and Uema Elementary School in Naha was held at the Boys & Girls Club Youth Gym on Kadena Air Base. Approximately 40 current and former club members of the Mini Basketball Club from Uema Elementary School were invited to exchange friendship through a mutual interest - basketball. The Uema Mini-Basketball team, former teammates - who graduated from Uema last March and are now attending Junior High School - the coach and parents were warmly welcomed by staff and coordinators from Kadena High School. Cultural and friendship exchange is not a new thing for these two schools, and they have met twice before - once as part of the school's cultural exchange program, the second time on court in a friendly against one another. Inside the gym, supporters for both teams waited expectantly for the tip-off in the first game. The Kadena home team, which included five girls, and the Uema side, who took to the court with five former members of the side, all male, ran out to great applause. After a few backs-and-forths, the guest team scored first. Then as each team traded baskets, the crowd grew more vocal, clapping and cheering both sides. As champions of the Naha and Urasoe district Mini-Basketball Tournament five times in succession, and one of the top eight teams in Okinawa, Uema had a lot of pride at stake, and came through winners in the first game 14-13. "I thought it would be a bit harder for my team to win today because we usually play mini-basketball, which has different rules, smaller balls and a lower hoop," said Tsuyako Oshiro, coach of the Uema team. "But, they did fine and seemed to be very relaxed playing against the American students." The second game saw current players take to the court for Uema Elementary School. By the end of the half, Kadena Middle School had narrowed the gap and caught up with the Uema team. What was most encouraging was the sportsmanship displayed by both sides. Often when one played fell to the floor, an opponent was usually first to offer an outstretched hand. When the final whistle blew, Kadena had won by nine points. Allison Melfow, captain of Kadena Middle School team, said she had expected an easier game. "I thought it was going to be easier to follow (the Uema team), but it was kind of hard." Uema captain Ryuuji Takara said: "Our opponents were taller than us. Many rebounds (that I attempted to take) were taken (by the players of Kadena team)." "It was a good opportunity for both teams to exchange friendship through sports," said Dave Rasserrell, coach of Kadena Middle School basketball team.

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