Harlem Rockets play PAL for charity, plus laughs

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Players from the Warwick Police Athletic League (PAL) put their reputations (and ankles) on the line against the Harlem Rockets, a comedic charity basketball team, to raise money for the PAL and give the crowd of about 100 onlookers a fun show on Saturday afternoon at Warwick Veterans Junior High School.

Although the PAL was clearly outmatched in athleticism by the high-flying, alley-ooping, dunking showmen of the Rockets, they kept within a short distance of the lead through some spirited play. The final score of the game was 62-51 in favor of the Rockets.

However the game was not truly about the scoring as much as it was about fun. The Rockets took several timeouts to dance along to songs such as “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae),” the Cupid Shuffle and Cotton Eye Joe with members of the audience – giving kids plenty to smile about as many joined in to participate. In one memorable sequence, Justin "Big Shot" Tompkins – wearing a jersey with the number “4 ft. 6,” his height – began by dancing with just one enthusiastic fan, before dozens more joined in.

At halftime the Rockets gathered up five boys and five girls for a free throw competition, and engaged in plenty of antics throughout the game – like screeching high pitched shrieks whenever a PAL player would go for an easy lay-up and showing off their superb dribbling skills to mesmerize their would-be defenders. When all else failed, a member of the Rockets would blast off and slam the rock home to wow the crowd.

People were encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, the proceeds of which would go to benefit local youth athletics, but those who showed up out of curiosity weren’t forced to pay for entry to enjoy the show. Following the game, Rockets players signed memorabilia available for sale at the entry to the gym and engaged with the community.

It was the third year that the Rockets have teamed up with the PAL for a charity fundraiser in Warwick. The Rockets were formed in 1993 by Brig. General (Ret.) George Mitchell. Mitchell had previously worked with ex-Harlem Globe Trotter Marques Haynes as a General manager for the Harlem Magicians. Rockets players throughout the years have gone on to play for the Globe Trotters, and their lineups have included several collegiate, semi-pro and professional athletes.

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