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The Falcons and Cougars shake hands after a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza  on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Falcons won the game 33-31.
The Falcons and Cougars shake hands after a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Falcons won the game 33-31. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
The Falcons and Cougars shake hands after a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza  on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Falcons won the game 33-31.
The Falcons and Cougars shake hands after a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Falcons won the game 33-31. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
Dezire Maldonado shoots a jump shot during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza  on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Maldonado scored six points.
Dezire Maldonado shoots a jump shot during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Maldonado scored six points. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
Bahrain and Vicenza players battle for a loose ball during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Falcons pulled off an upset victory against the Cougars, winning the game 33-31.
Bahrain and Vicenza players battle for a loose ball during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Falcons pulled off an upset victory against the Cougars, winning the game 33-31. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
Cougar Brealin Redecker and Falcon Mina Testh fight for a loose ball during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Falcons pulled off an upset victory against the Cougars, winning the game 33-31.
Cougar Brealin Redecker and Falcon Mina Testh fight for a loose ball during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Falcons pulled off an upset victory against the Cougars, winning the game 33-31. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
Falcon point guard David Ogundale is met by Cougar shooting guard Jayden Owens during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The visiting Cougars won the game 74-60.
Falcon point guard David Ogundale is met by Cougar shooting guard Jayden Owens during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The visiting Cougars won the game 74-60. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
Falcon point guard David Ogundale is met by Cougar point guard Zach Cohen during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The visiting Cougars won the game 74-60.
Falcon point guard David Ogundale is met by Cougar point guard Zach Cohen during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The visiting Cougars won the game 74-60. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
Falcon shooting guard Cooper Lawrence shoots a free throw during a game between Division II Bahrain  and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The visiting Cougars won the game 74-60. Lawrence scored 18 points.
Falcon shooting guard Cooper Lawrence shoots a free throw during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The visiting Cougars won the game 74-60. Lawrence scored 18 points. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
Falcon forward Derek Westendorf drives the lane during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The visiting Cougars won the game 74-60. Westendorf scored seven points.
Falcon forward Derek Westendorf drives the lane during a game between Division II Bahrain and Division I Vicenza on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The visiting Cougars won the game 74-60. Westendorf scored seven points. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)
The Bahrain and Vicenza high school basketball teams take a photo with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain at the Royal Endurance Village where the king was in attendance for a horse race. The king shook hands with the players, posed for selfies and spoke with the players.
The Bahrain and Vicenza high school basketball teams take a photo with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain at the Royal Endurance Village where the king was in attendance for a horse race. The king shook hands with the players, posed for selfies and spoke with the players. (Courtesy of Shana Seawright)

BAHRAIN – The Bahrain Falcons had never lost a home game to a Department of Defense Education Activity opponent before hosting Vicenza on Friday and Saturday.

Of course, they had never won either. Because the four games over two days were the first time a team from Europe had traveled to take on Bahrain during the regular season.

After the conclusion of Saturday’s games, the first statement was still true for the Bahrain girls squad. But unfortunately, the second was true for the boys team.

The Cougars won both boys games – 74-60 and 59-48 – but the Falcons came out on the winning side in two close girls games: 33-31 and 55-53 in overtime.

The games concluded a week-long homecoming celebration for Bahrain full of school spirit and alumni events that also marked the 50th anniversary of the school’s opening.

Off the court, the two teams spent Friday and Saturday together touring the island to see historic forts, the Formula 1 race track, a camel farm and the Tree of Life. The teams also experienced a rarity for Americans living in Bahrain: A personal greeting from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

“It was insane, because the amount of security clearances you have to do to get that type of opportunity is insane,” said Bahrain senior Christina Carpenter-Lopez. “And for Vicenza to be able to come here being the first time ever and being able to meet the royalty of the island…I think it’s really awesome.”

The games weren’t that bad either.

Friday the two girls teams battled evenly throughout. In the final seconds, Bahrain’s Tasneem Abdkhair made two free throws to put her team ahead.

“Honestly, the best moment of my life,“ Abdkhair said. She was the leading scorer with 10 points but credited her teammates. “I can’t ask for a better team. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do my best.”

In the boys’ game on Friday, Vicenza got off to a slow (or maybe jet-lagged) start and trailed Bahrain by two points at the end of the first quarter. That lead was short-lived however, as the Cougars outscored Bahrain by 13 points in the second quarter to forge ahead at halftime.

Vicenza then dominated the fourth quarter with a 24-point outburst to pull away.

Day 2 mirrored the action from the first night with a nail-biter for the girls. The two teams traded the lead throughout the first three quarters, but the real drama unfolded late in the fourth. Bahrain trailed Vicenza for the last 5 minutes but in the last minute, the Falcons tied it up in a dramatic fast-break bucket by Yamina Tesch.

The teams then traded fouls and free throws, but it was Bahrain that tied up the game with a made free throw by Tofunmi Sodeinde to send the game into overtime.

In overtime, Bahrain got the jump on Vicenza and pushed the score to 55-52 and then the teams essentially traded turnovers until the clock ran out.

Tesch led Bahrain over the two days with a combined 24 points, while Abdkhair had 19 and Carpenter and Sodeinde 17 apiece. Brealin Redecker totaled 30 points for Vicenza and Bridget Craig 22.

On Day 2 for the boys, Bahrain trailed Vicenza the whole game despite a 20-point effort in the second quarter.

Zeddy Roberts had 30 points over the two games for the Cougars, followed by Micah DeJardin’s 28, Kai’re Grant’s 26 and Jayden Owens’ 22. David Ogundale had 39 between the two contests for Bahrain, followed by Derek Westendorf’s 24 and 17 apiece from Derrick Lee and Cooper Lawrence.

karsten.joshua@stripes.com

Twitter: @joshua_karsten

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