Fans enjoy the return to full-capacity as men’s and women’s basketball open up season
By Tess Dankoski, staff writer
Thousands of students and their family members gathered in Cintas Center last Friday to watch Xavier’s Musketeer Madness kick off the 2021 basketball season.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Cintas Center was the fullest it had been since Spring 2020, with more than 5,700 fans cheering from the bleachers. This event gave first-years a peek at this season and allowed upperclassmen to get reconnected with their school spirit.
“The atmosphere was awesome,” Zach Klevit, a senior sports management major, said. “A packed Cintas Center is one of the best parts about going to Xavier, and my friends and I really missed it last year.”
The energy certainly was high in the arena. The men’s and women’s basketball teams, cheerleaders, dance team, pep band, Blue Blob and students in the crowd all proved their XU pride.
The night kicked off with the presentation of the women’s basketball team, which this year consists of 13 players. This was followed by their three-point shootout challenge, won by sophomore Mackayla Scarlett with 14 points.
After this, the women’s 10-minute scrimmage was won by the blue team, finishing a comeback after making the score 17-16.
The basketball teams took a break from the court while other classic events hyped up the fans, including the t-shirt toss and raffle giveaway. The dance team then brought the energy up once again, performing to the song “Hard In The Paint.”
“It was almost overwhelming, honestly,” Shea Koley, first-year biomedical sciences major and member of the dance team, said. “With all the lights and music, it was a lot, but it was very exhilarating.”
Before the men’s team came out, the Blue Blob perfectly executed 12 consecutive somersaults, sending the crowd into a fit of wild cheering.
The pep band provided another layer of excitement to Musketeer Madness, performing the XU Fight Song, “Sweet Caroline,” “Seven Nation Army” and even their very own rendition of “Crazy Train.”
A similar cycle repeated itself with the introduction of the men’s basketball team. Koley and the team stood on the court and welcomed the players as they came out of the tunnel.
“They hype each other so much. It was fun to watch the team camaraderie” she added.
All 16 members of the team were announced individually with the exception of Zach Freemantle, who came out alongside the coaches on crutches. The men’s three-point shootout challenge directly followed, in which senior Nate Johnson won with a score of 15.
After the three-point shootout, three members of the men’s team competed in a dunk contest, judged by fellow teammates, in addition to Travis Steele’s son Winston.
When asked about her favorite part of Musketeer Madness, first-year Philosophy, Politics and the Public major Alyssa Blandford pointed to the dunk contest.
“I thought that the men’s trick-shot contest was crazy, especially when that one player jumped over his teammate,” she said, referring to sophomore Dwon Odom’s memorable dunk over his 6’8’’ teammate Jerome Hunter. This warranted a perfect score from the judges, crowning Odom the winning dunker.
The night ended with the men’s team scrimmage. The white team led for the majority of the game, but senior blue team member Paul Scruggs brought the score to a 26-26 tie with a turnaround jumper that beat the buzzer.
Klevit compared this year’s event to the others that he has attended.
“I have been to Musketeer Madness before, but I think this was the best so far, because there was so much anticipation to get back in Cintas after not being able to go for over a year,” Klevit said.