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East Hall High School will operate remotely beginning Monday, Dec. 7, and continuing for at least three days. The Hall County School System made the announcement Friday afternoon following a significant amount of absences among staff and students resulting from COVID-19 positive cases.
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Wizards, Hoopsters put on show for community
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Harlem Wizards player Mike “Big Mike M&M” Matthews greets the crowd before playing a exhibition basketball game against the Hall County Hoopsters at Flowery Branch High School Saturday night. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

FLOWERY BRANCH – Height? The Harlem Wizards had it. Talent? The Wizards had that, too. Fun? Everyone in attendance had that.

Sure, the Hall County Hoopsters ended up on the losing end of a 91-80 game, but the faculty members that comprised the team and the hundreds of fans in the stands didn’t care about the outcome.

Everyone was there to be entertained and that mission was accomplished.

"The kids are really enjoying this," Flowery Branch resident John Gerdtz said at halftime. "It’s good to have local things like this sporting event so we don’t have to travel downtown to be entertained."

With rim-rattling dunks, dribbling exhibitions and fan involvement, Saturday’s game between the Harlem Wizards and the Hall County Hoopsters was nothing short of an overwhelming success.

"I couldn’t be happier," said Flowery Branch assistant coach Robert Alfonso, who helped plan the event. "I think this is something we intend on doing yearly.

"Hall County is a basketball county, and this is a perfect marriage."

While the majority of the game was played primarily as an exhibition, with several Wizards’ showstopping dunks and pranks played on both the Hoopsters and the fans, Hall County’s team of faculty members tried as hard as they could to make a game of it.

Trailing by nine at the end of the first half, the Hoopsters (0-1) were awarded a 29-point bonus to start the third quarter. That bonus was given by the emcee who did not appreciate Wizards guard Broadway’s antics toward the people at the scorer’s table.

"We’re going to turn the intensity up a little bit," Gainesville assistant coach Jamele Hester, said before the start of the third quarter.

Despite the large lead, and the extensive effort from the five best Hoopsters, who played the entire quarter, Harlem still managed to get back within one point when the third quarter ended.

"We realized we really weren’t the show, but we wanted to give them a show," Alfonso said.

Hester helped the Hoopsters maintain the lead with two 3-pointers in the third, but his performance was overshadowed by the fact that the emcee, who had nicknames for all the Hoopsters, referred to Hester as Chris Brown.

"I don’t like that at all," Hester said of being called the R&B singer who most recently was accused of beating his girlfriend. "I love my girlfriend, I’d never hurt her."

The Wizards certainly put a hurting on the Hoopsters and the rims at Flowery Branch High. The team of six dunked the ball so often that at one point in the fourth quarter the rim failed to return to its normal position.

That was the lone negative of the exhibition basketball game that included a halftime show where Broadway got several youngsters from the crowd and played a passing game called "You got tricked." In the game, Broadway, who was wearing a microphone throughout the game, tried his hardest to get the players involved to drop his passes. To his dismay, and no doubt part of the script, Broadway was ousted from his own game by a tyke dubbed Peewee.

Appealing to the young fans in attendance was what the game was all about, and on a night when college basketball teams were trying to reach the Final Four, Alfonso believes that the game was just as enjoyable as the ones that could have been seen on TV.

"I know the NCAA Tournament is on, but for a lot of people who came out, this was more enjoyable," he said.

The fans weren’t the only ones who had fun.

"This is awesome," Hester said. "It’s my first time being a part of it and I’d do it 1,000 times.

"Just to see the kids smiling while we’re out there playing makes it all worth it."

Sometimes there’s more to sport than winning and losing, and Saturday’s game at Flowery Branch proved that to be true.

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