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Steelers draw 800 to Valley High charity basketball game

NEW KENSINGTON -- Seven Pittsburgh Steelers took on a team of local police officers for a charity basketball game Wednesday evening.

It's the first time local Steelers fans have seen at least some of the team play together since its appearance in the Super Bowl.

With the National Football League's lockout in place, the team can't practice together.

About 800 fans packed the Valley High School gymnasium for the 15th annual Tom Cimino DARE Benefit Basketball Game. Some said they're optimistic the lockout will end by fall's football season.

Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch, a member of the players union executive committee, wouldn't comment on the lockout.

Safety Ryan Mundy said he hopes the situation gets worked out soon.

The charity game, named after the late Arnold police officer who helped start the event, raises money for local Drug Abuse Resistance Education programs.

The final score: Steelers 124, Police 54.

The Steelers team, called The Pittsburgh All-Star Footballers Basketball Team, wore black uniforms trimmed with gold fabric along the edges and "Footballers" emblazoned across the front.

Four Arnold police officers, three from New Kensington and one from Lower Burrell, along with Cimino's son, a county judge and the school district's boys basketball coach, made up the "home" team, all donning red T-shirts and black shorts.

Steelers 6-foot-8-inch, 230-pound wide receiver Wes Lyons easily scored a slam-dunk within the first few seconds of the game, followed by many more swooshes.

At halftime, the Footballers took a break to sign autographs while kids grabbed basketballs to shoot hoops.

Mundy said this is his third year playing charity games.

"It's always important no matter what charity ... to get back into the community in fellowship with people," Mundy said.

"We play a lot of them over the years," Batch said. Charity games give an opportunity to go out and meet fans, he said.

Plus, playing for charity can help out a cause.

"That's the least we could do," Batch said.

Footballers team manager Tom O'Malley said the game is "a real tribute" to Cimino's work.

O'Malley, who has served as team manager since 1969, said charity games are held two or three nights a week with different Steelers participating.

Fans say they hope the lockout ends soon so they can see the team back on the field by fall.

"I gotta be on the side of the players on this one," said Tom Link of Lower Burrell. "It's tough. It hurts both sides."

Link, who said he attends a couple of Steelers games every year, brought his 7-year-old grandson.

Link stays optimistic that there will be a football season this year, saying not having football "would be a travesty."

Sean Robertson of New Kensington is related to the Cimino family and has attended the charity game for years.

He's hopeful that the NFL lockout will not inhibit football season: "(I) wouldn't know what to do on Sundays."

Additional Information:

The squad

The Pittsburgh All-Star Footballers Basketball Team included:

• Charlie Batch, quarterback

• Nick Eason, defensive end

• Sonny Harris, defensive end

• Mortty Ivy, linebacker

• Wes Lyons, wide receiver

• Ryan Mundy, safety

• Limas Sweed, wide receiver

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