XENIA — The game played at Phil Anderson Gymnasium on Monday night was just competitive basketball. Before and after the buzzer is where the best memories were made for those competing.
North-East Bushrangers, an Australian girls basketball team, began its three-week tour of the United States with stop number one in Xenia to play against the Lady Buccaneers.
The opportunity to meet people from not just another country, but the literal other side of the planet doesn’t occur often for the most common of people.
“I think overall it was great,” Xenia head coach Jessica Threats said. “At first some people were in disbelief if people from Australia really came here. … It was a great environment for the girls to play in having their families and friends show up to watch. A once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The Bushies as they are known made the 38-hour flight from Australia to arrive in Indianapolis early Sunday morning before making their way into Ohio.
Tony Long coaches the Bushies and while he has visited Hawaii, this is everyone else in the group’s first trip to the United States.
Acquitting themselves to putting on a good show for the crowd despite their weary legs from travelling, Long said he thought it was a good experience for the girls on the team to get accustomed to what they want to do on the basketball court during the trip.
At the same time, he thought they received a positive dose of conventional American customs during the game.
“It was really nice to have the boys there,” Long said of the Xenia student section in attendance. “We said about halfway through it would be really nice if our boys did that. [The girls] found it really interesting.”
The teams got to briefly meet one another prior to warmups, but they got the most time to have exchanges once the game was over.
“We were talking throughout the game and they were just really nice,” Kendall Sherman said. “They asked a couple of questions during the game to figure out what some words meant and I explained it to them and they were just so really enthusiastic about it all.”
A gift exchange was held, as well as the playing of the Australian national anthem before the game.
As much as both sides enjoyed the company of the other, when the ball was in play there was a vigor on display to win. The game was even for three of the quarters, but the technical prowess of the Bushies pushed them ahead after halftime to the victory.
“I definitely learned that just because they’re from a different continent, that doesn’t mean they play the game differently from us,” Amarie Withers said. “… I’m glad coach did this for us because it’s never gotten to happen to anyone else before here.”
Threats started organizing and planning the event more than a year ago when the Aussie group began reaching out to schools in the area in search of potential opponents during its visit in America.
The Bushies will be traveling across Ohio playing other high schools during their tour, spending Christmas in Cleveland while attending NBA and NFL games, before making their way to New York City after the New Year. They will finish the trip with a stop over in Los Angeles to attend Disneyland on the way home.
Photos, Snapchat addresses, and more were exchanged after the game by the players to keep in touch. The cultural experience seemed to hit home the most as the girls from both teams cheerfully clamored over accents during their discussions. Some Xenia girls even joked about getting the autographs of their Aussie guests.
The best takeaways shared by the Lady Bucs players all came from a similar realization. Even though their guests live nearly 10,000 miles away, they were the same-age, same interest people which they are themselves.
Threats said she was happy everyone was able to take advantage of the opportunity not just to play a game, but also broaden horizons through meeting new people without having to leave the comfort of home.
“We got this first experience ever and I just thought it was so great,” Withers said. “We might not have won, but we played really well together and it was fun overall.”
“It’s just this whole experience, like I’m never going to forget it,” Sherman said.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_