DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- The Kearsarge All Stars basketball team lost a tough contest on the court to the Al Ahli Club men's basketball team here Aug. 2 in a 78-77 finish.
This game was organized as part of Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group's community outreach program during the amphibious assault ship's four-day port visit in Jebel Ali.
If "friendship through competition" was the objective of the game then there was plenty of friendship to go around as the teams battled to the finish in a super-charged game. "Both teams are made up of players that are very aggressive and they all played at one-hundred percent," said Felton Sealey, the head coach for the Al Ahli team.
When the Navy and Marine team stepped on the court, their obvious size advantage seemed to assure their victory before the first whistle blew. But this assumption was proven wrong early in the game.
Although the biggest player on the Al Ahli team was about the size of one of the smaller players on the Kearsarge All Stars, Al Ahli made up for their lack in size with quick passing, highly-accurate outside shooting and strong physical conditioning.
By the end of the first half, Al Ahli had opened a 12-point lead over the Kearsarge All Stars. The All Stars team went to the locker room to regroup and form a strategy to come back in the second half.
The start of the second half saw a revived All Star team. They shut down the Al Ahli team in the third quarter by out rebounding them and passing the ball more.
By the start of the fourth quarter, they were within one point. This differential however, would remain the rest of the game. It was a back and forth struggle, but in the end, Al Ahli team was able to hold on to their one point lead to win the game.
Though disappointed with the loss, the All Stars did not lose focus on the purpose of the game.
"It is extremely significant to have the opportunity for teams like the Kearsarge All Stars to play another sports team in a different country because, not only does it promote peace, it gives both teams a chance to demonstrate good sportsmanship," said All Stars small forward Staff Sgt. Michael Vanhorn. "This also allows individuals from both countries to actually meet, greet and get to know each other without any influences except the pure desire to win and competition."
After the game, the All Stars took time to socialize with a few new friends and show their appreciation to the club by presenting them several mementos from the ship and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). In return, the UAE team offered the All Stars a pennant signed by the entire team.
The night ended with a group photo and a lot of hand shaking. Sealey invited the All Stars back for a rematch. Though the brief port visit did not allow enough time for the rematch, both teams seemed to appreciate the opportunity they had.
As USS Kearsarge and the 26th MEU (SOC) begin to wrap up this deployment, the Marines and Sailors have left a positive mark at nearly every port visited with similar type games and volunteer work in the communities.