Just 15 minutes before last night's 7 o'clock tip-off, both teams looked ready for The Challenge.
At one end of the basketball court of the Obery Court Recreation Center in Annapolis, an 11-man Maryland State Police team, went through its warm-up paces, shooting jumpers and driving for layups. They wore black shorts and black shirts with gold numerals and the word "Trooper" written across their chests.
At the other end, a motley-looking crew had assembled. Aside from their white T-shirts, they seemed to have no uniformity at all -- wearing a multicolored array of shorts and sweat pants. They are the Team With No Name, according to the man who coaches them, 29-year-old Harold "Chucky" Lloyd.
"Just call us Clay Street," Mr. Lloyd said.
It was only 22 days ago that 22 troopers from the state police "Operation People" Program set up shop in the Clay Street community in Annapolis. Community leaders called them in to help the neighborhood that has been riddled with drug dealing and violent crime.
"We came to help the Annapolis Police Department help citizens reclaim their neighborhood," said Sgt. Clarence Bell, the second in command of the Operation People unit. In addition to the 22 troopers assigned to the unit, the Annapolis Police Department has assigned four to six officers of its own to Operation People, Sergeant Bell said.
"We're basically trying to show everybody down here that we can be together," said Tfc. Dale Carnegie, 27, a seven-year veteran of the state police. He is the captain of the basketball team composed of nine troopers and two Annapolis police officers. The game is part of the community policing effort that has taken Operation People from the Newtowne community in Annapolis to Salisbury on the Eastern Shore and now back to Clay Street.
Community residents challenged the troopers to a collegiate-style basketball game of two 20-minute halves. Trooper Carnegie was coy before the game started about just how the challenge came about, but Mr. Lloyd wasn't. It seems Trooper Carnegie himself sold some "woof tickets," claiming his team could beat Clay Street's, Mr. Lloyd alleged.
"I'm not going to deny that," Trooper Carnegie said with a smile. "I'm going to plead the Fifth on that one."
The troopers won the opening tip and soon surged to a 24-13 halftime lead.
Ward 2 Alderman Dean L. Johnson, who represents the Clay Street community, was there to cheer his team on.
"Our team is throwing it around a lot but we're not organized," Mr. Johnson said in explaining the troopers' lead. Robert Dears, 13, a resident of the community, also had an opinion about why the Operation People squad was leading.
"The troopers are playing a good game," said the youth, who feels the troopers are "nice guys who don't bother anybody."
On the Clay Street bench, Mr. Lloyd wasn't worried.
"I think we're going to come back," he said. "We've got a long bench. [The troopers] are kind of old and they're getting tired." His squad ranged in age from 15 to 41.
Mr. Lloyd's prediction came true in the second half. With a flurry of 3-point shots and good defense, his youthful 15-man squad wore down the troopers to win by a final count of 44 to 31.
"It's good for the community for everybody to come out here," Mr. Lloyd said after the game. "We [residents and troopers] communicate with each other and respect each other. The community is happy to have them here."
Charles Wright, at 41 the oldest member of the Clay Street squad, said the troopers "played good the first half, but I said the second half was ours." He promised the troopers a rematch.