News: U.S. women defeat Kuwait 71-64
by Sgt. Robert Adams
KUWAIT - The U.S. Camp Arifjan female basketball team used a strong post game to out-muscle a quick Kuwait female national team 71-64 in an exhibition match at the Al-Fatat Sports Club in Kuwait City April 27.
The event was the second time both teams have faced each other in the past year, the first being a 38-37 U.S. victory at Arifjan in June 2005.
"We have a great relationship with the U.S. girls because we've played against them already," said Fatima Al-Hamad, Kuwait's point guard. "This was like a reunion."
The event proved to be more than a basketball game for it gave both countries the opportunity to learn about each other's culture.
Before the game started, the Kuwaiti basketball players, some wearing headscarves, long sleeves and pants under their uniforms, greeted U.S. players, wearing uniforms provided by the Association of the U.S. Army, with gifts and handshakes.
"Through this event we can enhance and maintain sportsmanship," said Fadhila Al-Shwailan, Al-Fatat Sports Club chairman. "Tonight all of us are winners."
Once the ball was tipped both team's competitive spirit took over. The U.S. team began the game on a 5-0 run behind the down low presence of forward Shatrice Blue, who scored eight of her 23 points in the first quarter. The Kuwait team then stepped up the defensive pressure which led to 10 consecutive points off turnovers. Kuwait's Al-Hamad took advantage of the U.S. mistakes, scoring nine of her 20 points in the first quarter.
"In the beginning of the game we were nervous, but by the second quarter it got intense," said Al-Hamad, who has played on the Kuwait team for six years.
Kuwait heated up from behind the 3-point line in the second quarter connecting on four attempts. Kuwaiti guard Mashael Al-Marzouq, who scored 16 points in the game, led the outside attack, but the Kuwaitis couldn't pull away from the U.S. team who kept getting the ball down low to their post players.
"They had a lot of good outside shooters, so we changed up our defense," Blue said.
At halftime both teams were still neck-and-neck, 37-37.
The U.S. team never trailed in the second half after opening the third quarter on an 11-to-4 run. The Kuwait team got to within two points several times in the third quarter, but the U.S. team held on to a 53-49 lead by the end of the third quarter.
"The [Kuwaiti] ladies played really aggressive," Blue said. "We had to get into the flow and take our game up a notch to match the level of intensity they brought to the court."
The U.S. team began the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to build a 12-point lead. The U.S. team was able to withstand a late Kuwaiti push by getting the ball down low to center Christine Hines, who scored nine of her 16-points in the fourth quarter.
"They left the middle open for us, so we kept getting the ball down low to our big girls," Blue said.
After the game both teams were given awards for their performances handed out by Sheikha Fareeha Al-Sabah, sister to the Emir of Kuwait. Her sister Sheikha Naima Al-Sabah also attended the game.
Also in attendance and thanking players were Richard LeBaron, the U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, Maj. Gen. James A. Kelley, Third U.S. Army deputy commanding general, and Kuwait Brig. Gen. Khaleel Al-Shamali.
"We have a special bond and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Kuwaiti counterparts," Kelley said. "We want to continue to do this in the future because this is a phenomenal chance for both of our countries to get together, enjoy each other, and enjoy a great sporting activity."