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Todd Starks of the Harlem Abassadors soars through the air before dunking the ball Monday at Southwest Middle School in Albert Lea.  — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune
Todd Starks of the Harlem Abassadors soars through the air before he dunked the ball Monday at Southwest Middle School in Albert Lea. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Having a ball on the court

Published 9:52pm Monday, October 28, 2013

The Harlem Ambassadors gave Albert Lea an interactive show Monday night at Southwest Middle School.

Games with audience members, including musical chairs and dancing, focused on fun and showmanship, while strategy took a back seat.

“I wish there were more events like this,” said Robert Suniga, a father of three who attended with his sons Dominic and Christian.

Suniga drove back to Albert Lea from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester earlier on Monday to take Dominic and Christian to the game. His checkup regarded his recovery from open-heart surgery on Sept. 16 because of an enlarged aorta.

“It’s great that I’m able to go to something like this,” Suniga said. Basketball was a big part of my life, but with my heart condition, I can’t play. I’m really glad to see that my sons are into it.”

Game organizer Kristie Jordahl said the family atmosphere was important. The Kiwanis Rockets — the Ambassadors’ opponents — played along well with Harlem’s hijinks. In the second half, before Shannon Steensma — the Rockets’ captain — shot a free throw, his shorts were hiked up near his arm pits by the Ambassadors’ Lade Majic.

“My favorite part was when they were messing with Shannon,” Jordahl said. “I thought he was a pretty darn good sport about it.”

The Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis sponsored the event, and the Rockets were comprised of local business representatives and city officials who joined forces on the court.

Revenue generated went toward local organizations that benefit area children, Jordahl said.

Harlem defeated the Kiwanis Rockets 72-36.

Although the Ambassadors doubled the Rockets’ score, the gang from Albert Lea showed some offensive firepower of its own when Mark Smed threw down a dunk in the second half.

The Ambassadors showed off their skills above the rim as well. Todd Starks and Yoshizes Belizaire dunked multiple times.

Referees were Tom Jones, who also called the game the Ambassadors played in Alden in 2011, and Jeff Jimenez.

The Kiwanis Rockets’ head coach was Dennis Dieser, who is director of the Albert Lea Family Y. Listed on the Rockets roster were Kate Constable, Amanda Weiss, Afton Wacholz, Lindsey Hugstad-Vaa, Steensma, Tim Engstrom, Kevin LaFrance, Chad Adams, John Holt, James Douglas, Jared Matson, Tim Butts, Ryan Cafourek, Jason Wilner, Smed, Dak Sorenson, Mark Habben, Troy Doyle, Lucas Lee, Paul Shea and Pat Dahl.

According to the Harlem Ambassadors website, all players on the team attended college, played college basketball and are drug free.

The Ambassadors’ first trip to Albert Lea might not be their last, Jordahl said.

“I think we might have them back in a couple of years,” she said. “They were a lot of fun.”

HA   17   18   20   17  —  72
KR   11   2    13   10  —  36