Hoover raises some Green for Geestman

NORTHWEST GLENDALE — By now, in the third year of its existence, the annual Stars Shooting for Hope celebrity basketball game's formula for success is becoming pretty clear — a sincere well-organized effort to raise money for a worthy cause combined with a competitive, exciting basketball game that itself is worthy of drawing a crowd.

But a spirited exhibition game pitting a team of Glendale Unified School District employees and associates, led by former Los Angeles Lakers star AC Green, against a squad of personalities from the worlds of acting and music wasn't the main reason the community turned out in good numbers at Hoover High on Friday night.

Rather, upwards of a couple hundred people showed up to help raise a total of $2,500 for the Desi Geestman Foundation, a charity organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children suffering from cancer and their families.

"The excitement of the game makes [the event] even more exciting to come back to," said Stars Shooting for Hope co-organizer and Hoover teacher Edgar Melik-Stepanyan, of the engaging action on the court, which saw the Stars team pull out a 66-62 overtime victory. "I think the celebrities and the teachers have the most fun.

"Seeing the thrill of the fans when Ara [Gregorian] hit that shot to send it to overtime was pretty sweet."

Gregorian, a Crescenta Valley High teacher, made a three-point shot in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime. It was the second year in a row the game has gone to overtime, as General Hospital star Jess Rowland also sank a three at the end of regulation last year before the teachers went on to win for the second straight time.

This time Rowland made sure the Stars came out on top, scoring six points in overtime, including a layup with 37 seconds left that put his team up for good.

"I'm super excited that I had points against AC Green," Rowland said with a laugh. "I think he gave me about 65%, but I gave my %110.

"I'm inspired [by the Geestman Foundation] and glad to help any way that I can."

Rowland was part of a celebrity team that included fellow actors Kevin Horton, Drew Cheetwood, Tyler Christopher, Jonathan Jackson and Dominic Zambrogna, as well as model Tyler Lough and recording artist Aaron Fresh, a Burbank High graduate.

A GUSD squad led by teachers Matt Dalton and Chuck Saint, administrator Tamar Kataroyan and, of course, Green, gave the Stars all they could handle for 36 minutes in a back-and-forth contest that was rarely separated by more than one possession on the scoreboard.

It was a two-point game after the first quarter and at halftime and tied going into the fourth quarter after Green hit an equalizer with 20 seconds left.

"It's always fun playing basketball, but this is great also as far as why we're playing," said Green, a three-time NBA champion with the Lakers and now the owner of a private security company that provides services to the school district. "The Geestman Foundation [is] trying to provide kids with hope in a very unfortunate situation.

"This is a great purpose, I'm glad Glendale is doing this."

Throughout the event, which was co-organized by Tara Lall, as well as the Hoover ASB, cheer squads from Mark Keppel and Toll middle schools and Hoover performed along with the Tornadoes band. There were raffles and a silent auction of prizes provided by event sponsors with all profits from the event going to the La Crescenta-based Geestman Foundation, which Ileana Geestman founded in 1999 shortly after her daughter, Desi, succumbed to neuroblastoma at the age of 12.

"It just gets bigger and better and everybody is having a great time," Ileana Geestman said of the event. "Just raising that awareness, raising money for the kids, it's just a great thing for this community.

"It just touches my soul, it's awesome."

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