Stars Shooting for Hope celebrity basketball game

UFC fighter Manny Gamburyan defends against Hoover's Chuck Saint at the Stars Shooting for Hope celebrity basketball game at Hoover High on Friday. The game, which has been played for six years, has raised over $10,000 for the Desi Geetsman Foundation. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer) (March 7, 2014)

GLENDALE — Throughout its first half-decade of play, the Stars Shooting For Hope charity basketball game, featuring a squad of celebrities versus a team of teachers representing the Glendale Unified School District, has featured close contests while raising money for the Desi Geestman Foundation. The sixth installment, played Friday night on the court at Hoover High School, yielded more of the same.

“It’s just great to come out here for a good cause,” Hoover football Coach Matt Andersen said. “Anytime you can get this many people in the gym and celebrities coming out for a good cause [it’s a good thing]. It’s just nice being out here.”

PHOTOS: Teachers and celebs square off in charity basketball game

The Glendale Unified squad, with an assist from NFL player Hamza Abdullah, who joined the teachers for the evening, broke away from a tie game in the fourth quarter to pull out a 46-38 victory over the celebrity team while raising the most money in the event’s six-year history.

“It was awesome to come out and get everyone excited about a good cause,” Abdullah said. “Desi, her spirit lives on. We’ve got to beat this cancer.”

The Glendale Unified squad broke a 36-36 tie by going on a six-point run midway through the final quarter and never trailed again. The teachers’ team was led by Abdullah, who had eight of his team-high 15 points in the fourth.

“He looked a lot bigger than your normal English teacher, I think,” Tyler Lough, a model by trade, playing on the celebrity team for the third year straight, said.

While there was competitive basketball on the court, charity was the aim of the game Friday night. The event raised $4,100, breaking the $4,000 threshold for the first time for the Desi Geestman Foundation, which seeks to improve the lives of children with cancer and their families.

“It’s just a great opportunity,” Crescenta Valley High teacher and six-time participant Arin Gregorian said. “Raise money for a good cause and play basketball and have a good time. I look forward to it every year.”

Abdullah, who scored eight points in last year’s game playing for the celebrities, is a player for the Arizona Cardinals and found himself on the Glendale Unified team after he arrived not listed on a roster and the teachers’ side needed an extra body — in his case a big one.

“It was a big surprise,” Abdullah said of his placement on the teachers’ team. “I was expecting to be on the celebrity team and not have to do much. The teachers are ballers, so I just tried to come in where I fit in.”

With 6:49 left in the first quarter, Toll Middle School teacher Matt Dalton, one of three players to appear in all six years of the event, got his face bloodied, left for the hospital and was replaced by Abdullah.

Toll Middle School teacher Jordy Solsoma was second in the scoring column for the teachers with eight points. Hoover football coaches Andersen and Ryan Rodriguez, along with Gregorian, each had five points. One of the event’s key organizers, along with associated student body members from Toll and Hoover, Edgar Melik-Stepanyan found his way to the court and scored two third-quarter points.

“We don’t do it just to have a celebrity game,” student organizer Elin Kazar Mikaelian said. “We want it to be an amazing thing, a tradition to go on and on.”

Leading the celebrity team was Lough, who appeared to be the most polished player on the court and sported a well-honed jump shot, with a game-high 18 points. This included three makes from beyond the arc in the first quarter, after which his team led, 14-10.

“We’re not too worried about who wins and loses,” Lough, who played two years of Division II basketball at Shawnee State before concentrating on the entertainment industry, said, “but it’s just for a good benefit.”