Never is the Whitworth Fieldhouse so packed with fans as it is during a basketball game. But last Saturday’s event was not just a basketball game. Students packed the stands in Pirate garb and with excited expectations to cheer on their 2014-2015 men’s and women’s basketball teams during Midnight Madness. In anticipation of the upcoming season, Associated Students of Whitworth University and the basketball teams partnered to put on the annual event in celebration of basketball, Pirate pride and a new season of competition.
“Midnight Madness is a way to get the campus excited about basketball season. It’s a long-held tradition on a lot of campuses across the country,” men’s basketball Head Coach Matt Logie said. “Tonight is a celebration—an opportunity to introduce our players to the students, and to let them know who’s representing them as the season kicks off. ”
The teams started the night with warm-ups before selected crowd members competed in a dodgeball game. The game was only one of many competitions involving fans. ASWU went to great lengths to include the crowd in the festivities. Raffle winners had chances to compete in a dance-off, a half-court shot for a chance to win one semester’s tuition and blindfolded musical chairs. Competition winners received new bicycles, iPads, and gift cards.
“People come for the free T-shirts and giveaways. Mostly it’s the tradition of the basketball program, though, that allows [Midnight Madness] to be what it is and [draws] the crowds in,” junior point guard George Valle said.
The men’s team entertained the crowd with a dunk contest between sophomore Forrest Baker, sophomore Riley Moreen, and senior Adam Wilks. The judges—including President Beck Taylor and several members of the student body—named Baker the winner.
“I think my favorite event was the dunking competition,” sophomore spectator Katrina Ulnick said. “I came because I like the energy of the event. I don’t usually go to sporting events but I think it’s really fun coming to Midnight Madness and meeting the players.”
The teams also engaged in a battle of the sexes during a three-point contest between Baker and junior Briann Maley. Baker won again. The cheer squad then took the crowd’s attention with a halftime performance created especially for Midnight Madness. To wrap up the night and prepare the audience to support the teams this season, the emcees taught the crowd cheers.
“There’s a lot of excitement this year because [the women’s basketball team] is ranked nationally for the first time in pre-season,” sophomore point guard Jessica Thoens said. “We’re 24th, so this year we want to get people to come out to our games to support us, and to give them a reason to come out—to see us actually play and compete.”
Both teams’ captains asked the student body to come to the Fieldhouse on Saturday, Nov. 15, to support them in their season openers. The women will play Eastern Oregon University at 5 p.m. and the men will follow with a game against D’Youville College at 7 p.m.