World Military Women's Basketball Championship begins

By Gary Sheftick | Armed Forces Sports | July 26, 2016

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (July 25, 2016) -- Teams from the United States, Brazil, Canada, China, France and Germany kicked off the World Military Women's Basketball Championship here at Paige Fieldhouse July 25.

Chinese Maj. Gen. Kaiping Ma spoke at the opening ceremony for the competition, sponsored by the Conseil International du Sport Militaire, or CISM.

"CISM is the world's largest international military sports organization and its main goal is to bring together soldiers all over the world on the sports field, instead of the battlefield," Ma told the athletes and fans through an interpreter.

"I hope it contributes to friendship among all military," he added.

U.S. Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, commander of Marine Corps Installations-West and Camp Pendleton, said his organization is proud to host the championship.

"I hope that you can get a deeper understanding of all our cultures and the interaction and relationships between our militaries," Killea told the international athletes.

CISM is at its essence a mil-to-mil engagement that fosters readiness, explained Steven Dinote, U.S. CISM chief of delegation.

Along with athletes getting to know their counterparts from other nations, CISM also provides opportunities for officials to engage at the highest levels, Dinote said. "These can lead to training engagements down the road," he added.

This week's championship is the culmination of a "long process of trying to get women's basketball on the map," said Dinote, who also serves as secretariat of U.S. Armed Forces Sports.

France hosted the first CISM Women’s World Basketball Championship last year, which featured seven teams. Brazil defeated China 87-86 to win gold, and the United States took the bronze medal last year.

U.S. Army Sgt. Kimberly Smith from Camp Humphries, Korea, competed on Team USA last year in France and said that she has kept in touch with several international athletes through Facebook. She and Spc. Vanessa Lamison from Fort Bliss, Texas, said they are both anxious to meet up again with some of their friends from other militaries.

The opening ceremony ended with an acrobatics demonstration by the TNT Dunk Squad. Several athletes and family members were called out onto the floor to help with the stunts. The TNT squad used trampolines to somersault over a line of the volunteers.

Spc. Diane Barnes from Fort Stewart, Georgia, and Sgt. Creshenda Singleterry from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, provided assists to the TNT squad by throwing balls up as the acrobats somersaulted above the net and dunked.

In the first game of this year's championship, Brazil beat Germany, 108-38. Brazil's Sgt. Gilmara Justino was the leading scorer with 19 points and Sgt. Karla Martins Da Costa scored 16. Germany's leading scorer was Sgt. Nancy Loth with 12 points.

In the second game, China bested France, 68-49. China's 6-foot-6-inch Liting Zhang scored 23 points. Three of the French women scored 7 points each: Laure Belleville, Elodie Decker and Stephanie Renaud.

In the third game, USA defeated Canada, 82-25. U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Donita Adams from Maryland scored 12 points and Seaman Shaneika Bennet scored 11. Canada's Cpl. Nicole Gaudet scored 13 points and Lt. Megan St. Aubin scored 8.

All 12 members of Team USA had a chance to play and score. "It was a balanced scoring attack," said Smith.

The round-robin competition continues until July 29 and then the following day athletes will participate in a cultural trip to Sea World in San Diego.