Celebrities shoot down Glendale Unified in Stars Shooting for Hope

GLENDALE — While the fifth annual Stars Shooting for Hope celebrity basketball game was more about the cause it supported than the final on the scoreboard, it was clear to anyone watching in Hoover High’s packed gym that both sides wanted to win.

It resulted in the highest scoring game in the history of the annual fixture, which squares off Glendale Unified School District employees and local celebrities — from athletes to actors — to benefit the Desi Geestman Foundation, with the celebrity squad rallying from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit for a 78-75 overtime win.

PHOTOS: The fifth annual Stars Shooting for Hope celebrity basketball game

“We just wanted a close game and to have some entertainment out there,” said St. Louis Rams wide receiver Brandon Gibson, of the celebrity squad, who celebrated the win by dancing with the large crowd that stormed the court. “We’re glad it turned out the way that it did, and it’s for a good cause.”

In the past five years, Stars Shooting for Hope has generated about $11,500 for the La Crescenta-based Geestman Foundation, a charity that strives to improve the lives of children suffering from cancer and their families.

Hoover teacher Edgar Melik-Stepanyan, who helped coordinate the event with help from Hoover and Toll Middle School, couldn’t help but repeat what he’d said in 2012.

“Every year it gets better and better,” he said. “It does… I am blown away, I’m amazed every single year by the fact that kids give back to other kids and kids want to serve. … I’m blessed, incredibly blessed.”

Not only was $3,500 generated Friday night – the most in the history of the event – but it also brought out the most people, said Hoover junior and ASB member Audria Amirian, who helped put it all together.

“This has been the biggest year we’ve ever had out of all of them,” she said. “I feel that everyone has come together, this is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had.”

While Gibson admitted it was the cause that brought him out to play in his first-ever appearance in the game, he wasn’t about to leave without a victory. He finished with 21 points and scored 11 of the Stars’ final 13 points with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Glendale Unified’s Samson Injigulyan, a junior varsity coach for the Hoover boys’ basketball team, finished with a game-high 37 points after scoring 13 points in the third quarter to give his side a 57-47 advantage going into the fourth quarter.

“It was important for me [to try and win] personally because all my players are watching in the stands,” Injigulyan said. “They’re out here for [the celebrities], but at the same time I don’t want to get embarrassed by them. I wanted to show my kids I could play with them, too.”

It was Austin Pettis (30 points), another Rams receiver, who made hope of a celebrity comeback very real. It happened when he grabbed a missed Gibson free throw and tossed it up and in to pull the celebrity side within five, 72-67, with 38 seconds to play.

Following a Glendale Unified miss, Gibson charged the length of the floor and pulled up for a three-pointer, his third of the quarter, to make it a two-point game, 72-70. Gibson then stole the inbounds pass, was fouled and hit both free throws to tie the game with 22 seconds left and send it into overtime.

Gibson then opened the extra frame with a layup and the Stars’ Hamza Abdullah (14 rebounds, eight points) – a member of the Arizona Cardinals – cashed in a putback with 18 seconds to go put his team up three, 76-73. After a series of fouls and free throws, Glendale Unified was still down three with nine ticks to go.

Injigulyan and Sevada Minassians (14 points) both got off desperation threes before the final buzzer for Glendale Unified, but both were off, crowning the celebrities the victors for the second time in the history of the event.

While Injigulyan may have been a little disappointed with the loss, he knew the bigger picture at the end of the gam – it’s what brought him out to play in the game.

“It’s definitely the cause,” said Injigulyan, whose uncle died from cancer. “The cause is the No. 1 thing because I’ve had personal experiences with it.”

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