Slam dunk for community relations

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath combined youth seventh and eighth grade basketball team played two teams from Lynn Nets basketball club at the Lakenheath Fitness Center May 5.

This was the fifth time this year the British basketball club, part of the Peterborough, England Basketball League under 16 teams, has traveled to RAF Lakenheath to play basketball against American youth.

"We like to come over to (RAF) Lakenheath because it's good to play against different teams," said Jackie Bunting, acting coach for the under 16 teams.

"It's as much as a learning experience as it is a game experience," added Mitch Dodman, owner of the Lynn Nets basketball club.

In the first game, both teams were evenly matched and answered each point made with a point of their own. With only 16.7 seconds left in the fourth period, the score was 55 to 57 in favor of the away team, the Nets made a basket to clinch the win.

After a 10 minute intermission, the mini-tournament continued as the military youth played a second game against another team from the Nets basketball club.

The American youth trailed behind the Nets for the first half of the game. After half-time, the RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath youth basketball team made a comeback to win by a single point with a final score of 57 to 56.

"It was really fun," said eighth grader Isaiah Joyce about playing the British teams. "In the first game we had a bit of trouble but in the second game we turned back into the team we've been this season."

Both sides enjoyed seeing the differences between the two styles of basketball played.

"The British team plays a European-style basketball," said Tech. Sgt. Cedric McKeaver, 100th Air Refueling Wing Equal Opportunity and one of the coaches of the military youth team. "European-style basketball has a more spread out offense and a lot more shooting versus the American style. I think the games really helped develop both sides so everybody can see the different types of games, from both a coaching perspective and more importantly the players."

"It also helps drive the quality of our teams up within the club," said Dodman. "We are very proud of the boys and it's lovely to come here. They're (the military youth) really nice lads."