Inaugural Navy-Marine Corps Classic on Friday
Game between Gators and Hoyas Friday aboard USS Bataan
MAYPORT, Fla. – The Navy-Marine Corps Classic basketball game tipped off Friday night on the amphibious assault ship docked at Mayport Naval Station.
The game was cancelled at half-time, though, as a slippery court caused by condensation posed a potential danger to players.
On the surface, it was a night of excitement on the deck of the USS Bataan. But the game was also a chance for the people in the 3,800 seats to show their appreciation for the men and women who work on the ship. In the process, the season opening game for the Georgetown Hoyas and Florida Gators provided a big economic boost for Jacksonville.
"To be on this ship, sharing a moment like this, means more than I can ever express," Gator's coach Billy Donovan said.
The teams toured the ship Thursday and had the opportunity to check out the court. The biggest concern for this outside basketball game was initially the temperature and wind. With an expected temperature of 58 degrees, it was expected to be a chilly night for those on the court and in the bleachers.
SLIDESHOW: USS Bataan arrives at Mayport
Florida and Georgetown had't played since the NCAA tournament's round of 16 in 2006, a game the Gators won on Corey Brewer's circus shot in the final minute.
That victory helped Florida get to the Final Four, where the Gators won the first of back-to-back national championships.
Playing on the Bataan had the potential to be even more memorable.
"This is a game that is bigger in my opinion than any game we've had the opportunity to play," Donovan said.
The game began at 9 p.m., televised on the NBC Sports Channel. Before the game, there was a concert by award-winning country artists.
"Little Big Town is one of the top acts in country music and we look forward to them putting on a great show, as well as singing the National Anthem before the game," said Alan Verlander, executive director of Jacksonville's Sports and Entertainment Commission.
Jacksonville Military Affairs spokesperson Victor Guillory said the game showcased Jacksonville.
"They'll see how much we value our vets but also how much we value sports and are a world class city," said Victor Guillory.
The game is part of Jacksonville's Week of Valor. Proceeds will go directly to benefit local military affairs efforts.
"I want everyone to know, not just in Jacksonville and Florida, but around the world, we're the most military friendly city in the country. We believe in our military personnel here," said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. "As mayor of this city, I want to do everything I can to make sure people know this is the place where service men and women serve, put on good events, and we're open for business."
The Navy was equally excited to participate in Friday night's festivities.
"The game respects the friendship with the Navy and Marine Corps. The sailors are incredibly excited about the game tonight, and they are honored the game is to pay them respect," said Capt. Erik Ross.
The Bataan ARG will be homeported in Mayport at the end of 2013.
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