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[SCMP Archive] Spirits remain high in face of defeat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 11:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 11:21am

[First published on April 02, 1989] Visitors to a family fun fair at the Hong Kong International School had to cover their eyes on Wednesday night as the US-system school’s basketball team survived a 52-29 mauling by members of their own armed forces.

“We’re giving it a lot of heart,” said 10th – grader Kelly Donohue, who was watching from the stands. “We could do a lot worse.”

The visiting team, representing the USS Midway, had been favored from the start. Its 13 players had already polished off the USS Blue Ridge, USS Reeves, USS Cochraine, and a succession of local teams.

Their HKIS opponents, by contrast, had not played a game since January. The teenage players also faced an age disadvantage against the Midway athletes, who were 18 to 22 years old.

But HKIS coach William Driskell had only good words for the Navy team.

“They’ve been very respectful towards us. They could have hurt us much more,” he said.

Navy players said it was difficult to fell fiercely competitive about the exhibition match, which was limited to two periods with a 12 minute running clock.

“It’s fun for us, and good practices,” said Airman Shaun Westerbrook, 19.

“We can only practice about once a week on board, when the shop operations aren’t too busy, and we don’t have a gym, just an aircraft hanger.”

By the end of the first 12 minute period, the Navy was ahead 26-16 and never looked back.

“They’re close to professional basketball players,” said an exhausted Dean Ku, a HKIS guard in his senior year. “But I didn’t even expect us to do as well as we did. We were really in the game.”

Before the basketball match, the spotlight was on rugby, the most popular sport at HKIS.

Players from the American Eagles, who represented their country at this weekend’s Rugby Sevens, stopped by to hand out  T-shirts and discuss the growing popularity of the sport in the US.

“It will never be as popular as American football; it’s not an American game,” admitted Bob Watkins, chairman of the US Rugby Union.

“But there are pockets of the sport all over the place, and in the past 10 years we’ve seen the number of clubs grow from 500 to 1,500. It’s also doing well at the university level.”

Mike Siano, an Eagle veteran, has also played professional American football.

“Rugby is a much nicer game. People are friendlier,” he said. “In American football, you’re trained to hate the other side. In rugby you socialize with your opponents.”

The HKIS family night affair also featured a barbecue and the USS Midway’s own pop band.