PORTLAND, Ore. – For the Indiana Hoosiers faithful, Thursday night’s game against the St. Mary’s Gaels proved an all-around disappointment.
But two IU cheerleaders gave fans the true highlight of the night (and perhaps all of March Madness) by rescuing a basketball that had gotten stuck behind the backboard.
Their one shining moment happened during the second half of Indiana’s lopsided loss to St. Mary’s. IU trailed 45-28 when a shot by forward Race Thompson got stuck behind the backboard, bringing a momentary stop to the game.
Players tried to dislodge it by sticking the handle of a mop into the gap, but despite the 6’10” frame of St. Mary’s Matthias Tass, it wouldn’t reach. A referee then retrieved a chair and tried the same thing with the mop handle.
He couldn’t get to the ball either.
Time to call in the big guns: IU cheerleaders.
Nathan Paris lifted Cassidy Cerny on his shoulders so she could retrieve the ball. The crowd, whipped up into a frenzy, cheered as Cerny reached up and grabbed it.
Day saved, even if the game itself was a lost cause (IU fell 82-53).
The cheerleaders talked to CBS’ Andy Katz during the game.
“They had the chair out there, but they couldn’t put the player on the chair,” Paris said. “And I was like, well, we lift them up all the time, so why don’t we just try that?”
How comfortable was Cerny being lifted in front of the crowd?
“Oh, very comfortable. Every single day, we stunt together,” she said. “That was nothing, really.”
She told Katz she trusted Paris “with my life.” Their coach gave them the go ahead.
The pair talked to FOX59 the morning after they captured the national spotlight.
“I’m not gonna lie. As soon as it went up I was joking in my mind like, ‘Oh we should put a stunt up and we’ll just get it down right there.’ Obviously, you never think it would come to that,” Paris said. “They have other things. Once I saw the chair didn’t work, and the wiping, the stick didn’t work, then I was like ‘This might actually end up being a real thing.'”
Any illusion they had that people would forget what happened quickly dissolved.
“In the moment it was just something funny to both of us, to our team, that we thought was just gonna get blown over by the end of the game. But almost immediately after it happened we were pulled aside for an interview, then another interview. I think we got three interviews at the arena,” Cerny said.
The whole thing exploded from there. Cerny said she checked her phone and was “overwhelmed” with the response.
“Social media has been insane,” she said. “Hearing from people from our school and hometown friends, relatives and stuff. It’s been really cool to be able to have this experience shared not only with our team, but with everyone who’s watching.”