By Chad Robert Snyder

Pilot staff writer

With a performance that can best be described as spirited, the visiting Harlem Ambassadors upset the heavily favored Habitat Hammers Friday night, 84-63, at CFCU Pavilion in Brookings.

The Hammers had their moments of inspired play, and, despite their inability to control the ebb and flow of the game, looked like they had a shot at a late comeback. Much to their amazement, however, they could only watch as the Ambassadors unique andquot;footballandquot; formation secured a Harlem victory.

Early on the game looked promising. Two Hammers in particular took turns menacing Harlem in the paint.

andquot;Principal Young, he was a tough cookie,andquot; said Harlem point guard Brihtani Lassiter. andquot;He made a bunch of threes and kept trying to take me to the basket every time he got the chance.andquot;

Hammer Pat Hanson also contributed with several clutch baskets in the first quarter, despite wearing high-tops that looked like they restricted knee movement.

Perhaps complacent after their early success, the Hammers let the game get away from them in the second quarter. They allowed Harlem to intercept passes and shot poorly for most of the quarter. The result; the Hammers left the floor down 32-10 at half.

There was a ray of hope for Habitat as they stepped on the court in the third period. For some inexplicable reason, Harlem spotted the Hammers 22 points due to what this reporter understands was some andquot;fantastic dancing by a local kidandquot; during the halftime show.

Whatever the real reason, the outcome was a tie score as play resumed.

The Hammers made an effort in the third, but even after the fortunate turn of events they couldn't score consistently and, as unnamed sources said after the game, the team looked a bit tired.

andquot;(The Ambassadors) are tough,andquot; Hanson said. andquot;They travel a lot, and you could see we weren't in the best of shape.andquot;

Excuses aside, the lead swelled early in the forth quarter to 28 points.

In the closing minutes the Hammers did manage a run and got within 20, only to have the feared andquot;footballandquot; formation of Harlem crush the Hammers hopes.

The formation not only kept the ball away from Habitat, it also burned valuable clock in the closing minutes.

After the game, Hammers' Coach Sarah McDonald expressed her disappointment and seemed confounded by the surprise loss.

andquot;(The Hammers) worked hard, but I think there was a lot of no-calls by the refs,andquot; she said.

Perhaps puzzled by the way the game transpired, she pointed out a flaw in their training regiment.

andquot;That was our problem,andquot; she said, after the fact. andquot;We practiced zone and they played us man to man.andquot;

McDonald did have some praise for the team, after her tirade was finished.

andquot;We did perform,andquot; she said.

She also singled out the performance of one player for MVP honors, Tamara Lee.

andquot;She played her heart out,andquot; she said.

Lee's effort showcased the spirit of the game. All the money collected Friday night for admission is going to help buy a new piece of property for Habitat for Humanity.

Hanson said he too was proud of his team.

andquot;We came out to have fun, and it was for a great cause,andquot; he said.

It certainly was.