The Pioneer men's and women's basketball teams were introduced at the event. (Photo: Bethany Helmus)
The Cal State East Bay Athletics Department celebrated the start of the 2011-12 Pioneer basketball season at its Basketball Madness event on Oct. 20. The department welcomed a crowd of over 700 students, faculty, staff and community members to Pioneer Gym last week to meet this year's teams, compete for great prizes and enjoy music from Trackademiks, 1-O.A.K. and DJ CME.
“I thought the Madness Event was a huge success,” Men's Basketball Head Coach Will Biggs said. “The crowd was large, positive, extremely enthusiastic and supportive of both teams. If this evening is a signal for the excitement to follow, our gym will be a tough place to play for our opponents because we have the best student body support in the entire CCAA.”
The event, organized and sponsored by Pioneer Athletics, Associate Students, Inc., Student Life and Leadership, the Residence Halls Association, the U.S. Army and Chipotle, served as the kickoff for the upcoming basketball season. The Pioneers opened practice on Oct. 15 and are set to begin the regular season on Nov. 11.
After women's basketball player Sarah Finlay opened the event with an impressive rendition of the national anthem, Mr. and Ms. CSUEB – Jamel Jackson and Elizabeth Ortiz – treated fans to a performance of “Welcome to the Bay.” Basketball Madness emcee and Director of Student Life and Leadership Marguerite Heinrichs followed with an introduction of both the men's and women's basketball teams, while Biggs and Women's Head Coach Suzy Barcomb gave the fans a preview of what to expect this season.
“Our number one goal going into the season has to be to make the CCAA playoffs,” Barcomb said. “This is a lofty goal that all the players want to achieve. We need fans in the stands to help build a home court advantage. The CCAA is one of the most challenging leagues. We need to get our fans behind us when we are at home. Fueling our teams with energy and making our opponents uncomfortable.”
The Pioneers also teamed up with the East Bay R.O.T.C. program to hold a three-point shooting contest for the fans. Second Lieutenant Don Johnson and Cal State East Bay cadet Christian Estrada paired up with Pioneer men's basketball players Nick Marshall and Jason Smith to take on Cal cadet Joe Mann and R.O.T.C. staff member Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gnewuch who teamed with Pioneer women's basketball players Sarah Finlay and Lauren Lucchesi in the contest.
Throughout the night, fans in attendance were chosen to participate in contests to win great prizes, including gift cards, gas cards and gift certificates for local restaurants. Students participated in a free-throw shooting contest with the basketball teams and played basketball musical chairs, while three fans had a chance to shoot a half-court shot for a $250 gift card. Fans who entered were also chosen at random to win 25-dollar gas cards, while knowledgeable fans answered trivia questions to win dinner for two at Chipotle and gift certificates for Bronco Billy's Pizza Palace.
The event was capped by a live performance from Trackademiks, 1-O.A.K. and DJ CME.
Several Cal State East Bay student organizations were on hand to participate in Basketball Madness. Dance teams Stance and Intensity2 performed for the crowd, while the newly created Pioneer Cheer Squad made their official basketball debut at the event. Also in attendance were members of Alpha Phi Sorority, Inc., and the Pioneer Pep Band, who helped to create a loud and enthusiastic atmosphere in the gym.
“The support from the students of East Bay at Basketball Madness was tremendous,” Barcomb said. “It was a game like environment, very electric. I hope it will be exciting every game day.”
The crowd also included a large number of residents from Pioneer Heights, who were competing for a prize for the hall with the most residents in attendance. With 21 of her 64 residents in attendance, Resident Advisor Jaime Piazza claimed the prize for the second floor of Juniper. The floor's participation earned them a burrito party courtesy of Chipotle.
With practice underway and excitement building, the Pioneer basketball teams are ready to make their mark during the 2011-12 campaign. Both teams open the season on Nov. 11, when the men take on Dominican at Pioneer Gym at 7 p.m., while the women kick off the CCAA/PacWest Challenge against Academy of Art in San Rafael. Both teams will begin the CCAA season on Dec. 2, when they host Sonoma State at Pioneer Gym. The matchup will also serve as the women's home opener.