Sailfish Hoops Continues Service and Basketball in Costa Rica

Blog By: David Balza, PBA Head Men's Basketball Coach

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA- The Palm Beach Atlantic men’s and women’s basketball teams continued their work in Costa Rica the past few days as they look to wrap up a successful summer missions trip. Read below on how the Sailfish are impacting children through the game of basketball while serving Christ.

Written by: David Balza, PBA Head Men’s Basketball Coach

We woke up on Day 3 to views of the Pacific Ocean from our rooms in Hotel Ocotel. As tired as everyone was, everyone was anxious to enjoy the uniqueness of our locale before our long bus ride back to San Jose. Several of us enjoyed a swim in the ocean, while others hung out on the shore in the black sand. Still others explored the vast wildlife, including several encounters with large iguanas. Nearly everyone could be found snapping photos of the incredible views from the cliffs above the water.

By late morning, we gathered for a large group picture from that cliff before boarding the vans for the long trip back. We found out what rush hour traffic was like as we got back into San Jose and went directly to our games that night. We played in the nicest venue by far – the Indoor Club of San Jose.

The women’s team faced their best competition of the trip as they took on Coronado Indoor Club, the reigning champ of the women’s pro league here. It was easy to see the toll that the bus ride took, as Coronado jumped out to a 12-1 lead. The Sailfish women showed a lot of toughness and resolve, though, as they battled back to take a big victory in the end by a score of 61-52. Senior Kimmi McIntosh set the pace as she consistently broke down the defense and led the team in assists. Nina Krstic was instrumental as well as she led the team in rebounding and her versatility kept the defense off balance. Junior Ayanna Holmes and sophomore Hannah Grim both scored in double digits to lead a balanced attack for the Sailfish women.

The men’s team took on the host San Jose club. The Sailfish athleticism proved to be too much for the hosts. PBA jumped out to a big lead and never looked back, winning 84-52. PBA was led in scoring by freshman Bakari Warthen’s 17 points, including multiple slam dunks in transition. Senior Michael Simpson (12 pts) and freshman Malek Barber (10 pts) also reached double figures in scoring, as did player of the game Casey Carpinello. Carpinello was the third different freshman to be named Player of the Game in three nights. He had 14 points to go with his team best five assists to just one turnover. Freshman Trey Koonce (8 rebs) and Sophomore Cory Kenning (7 rebs) led the Fish in rebounding.

I was privileged to lead the Thursday morning prayer and devotion with our teams.  I spoke on Exodus 16, where God provided food for the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness. We compared the manna to the rice and beans our student-athletes have come to enjoy this week. More importantly, we talked about the Bread of Life that God provides for us through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. I encouraged them to make the time this upcoming school year to feed their souls daily in God’s Word and to make use of all that PBA truly has to offer in terms of the gospel.

The Sailfish played again Thursday night, taking on a pair of Costa Rican college teams for the first time. The women’s team visited TEC University while the Men’s team went to the National University of Costa Rica. The ladies jumped out to a 13-0 lead and coasted to an 81-55 final, finishing the game portion of their trip with a 4-0 record. This game gave the coaching staff the opportunity to showcase some of the young talent on the roster as redshirt sophomore Arianna Cumbie and her sister freshman Ciara Cumbie set the tone early as they scored 10 of the first 13 points. Once again Ayanna Holmes showed why she will be instrumental in the regular season for the Fish as she led the team in both points and rebounds. Nikkira Brown played a significant role as she scored from the perimeter and managed the defensive pressure of TEC University.    

The men got off to a good start as well. They played their best defense of the trip, holding National U to just 10 first quarter points and sailing to a 93-48 victory. PBA was once again led by redshirt freshman Trey Koonce who has made the most of this trip to display a lot of the potential he showed last year in practice. For the second time this week, Koonce was named Player of the Game. He had team highs for the week in points with 21 and rebounds with 13. Sophomore Cory Kenning avoided foul trouble that had hampered him earlier in the week. It resulted in his best game, as he also registered a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Casey Carpinello played well again, pouring in 16 points and dishing out  four assists. Senior leader Michael Simpson had a well-rounded game with 9 points, four boards and four assists.

The highlight of these two days was not the games, however. Rather, it was the Workship opportunities to serve the Costa Rican people with free basketball clinics for the children in several communities in and around San Jose.  In all, the Sailfish squeezed five clinics in between the two games. The women’s team conducted two at all-girls’ schools while the men did likewise at boys’ schools. The ladies even played a simulated game with the attendees while an impromptu futbol game broke out at the men’s clinic.

The teams then came together to conduct a clinic at a primary and middle school in Ochomongo, described as one of the roughest areas in all of Costa Rica. This was truly an amazing experience for our student-athletes. Not only did they conduct drills for kids who were visibly appreciative and excited we were there, but they got to do so much more. We left the basketballs we had brought for the clinic with the school as the few they had were mostly flat or warped. 

In the spring, we had collected dozens of shoes from all of our student-athletes and friends as they finished their seasons and the school year.  These shoes still had plenty of wear in them, though, and we were privileged to give them to kids who truly needed them. Some of the shoes the kids had were being held together with tape or were completely worn through and some of the kids were at the clinic in the only shoes they owned, which happened to be old dress shoes. Some of the smaller kids were so excited to take ‘grown-up’ shoes home to their mother or father as a gift as well.  It warmed our hearts to see the smiles on their faces with their ‘new’ shoes.

It was a sad irony for us as we left the school that afternoon. We had just given shoes to kids and literally across the street there were old shoes hanging from a wire above a door. Our hosts told us that was an indicator of a place drugs were sold. One of our men’s players literally found a bullet lying on the street. We ended the day with significantly different views than we had the morning prior. These kids face so many obstacles and difficulties in their lives.  It was wonderful to have the chance to bring the joy of basketball to them.

Even more wonderful, though, was watching one of our women’s basketball players, Natalie Wood, share her witness with the students at the school.  She eloquently shared the ‘gospel in a nutshell’ from John 3:16. Our translator, David Chacon, helped her share the great news of salvation. As we leave here, we will keep the kids of Ochomongo in our prayers. We pray not only that they avoid the trappings and temptations of their surroundings, but most importantly that the gospel works in their hearts and they come to know their Savior Jesus, that they may enjoy the ‘mansions prepared for them in heaven.’

Coach Balza

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