Array of family oriented events centered on the Spark Energy MAAC Basketball Men's and Women's Basketball Championships in Bridgeport get underway this week

Array of family oriented events centered on the Spark Energy MAAC Basketball Men's and Women's Basketball Championships in Bridgeport get underway this week

Image: Bounce to the Arena The 2011 Spark Energy Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Men's and Women's Basketball Championships will feature events for everyone from young children to senior citizens, all in celebration of the city of Bridgeport's hosting of the highly anticipated college tournament, Fairfield University officials said.

Taking place from March 3-7 at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard, the annual tournament will feature 20 teams, with the champions of the men and women's contests each receiving an automatic bid to play in the 2011 NCAA® March Madness®.

Both Fairfield teams (the men are the number one seed in the MAAC) are looking forward to playing in front of a hometown crowd. "This is a special opportunity for the Stags to play on their home court, in front of their considerable fan base," said Fairfield University Athletic Director Gene Doris. "At the same time, it's terrific to be involved in a tournament that holds no shortage of activities for the greater Bridgeport community."

Kids from area dance studios will hit the paint for the MAAC Cheer & Dance Clinic Performances, taking place at halftime of the Saturday, March 5 women's semifinal games. Marie Chaisson, Fairfield University dance/cheerleader instructor, and the Stags' cheerleading and dance team featuring 36 students will give the young dancers some pointers early in the day. The audience will then be treated to a 'cheer' show during halftime of the first game, with a second group of youngsters set to perform a 'dance' show during the second game's halftime.

Image: Bounce to the Arena On Sunday, March 6 at noon, 'Bounce to the Arena' promises to be an impressive display of ball handling skills. The event will feature a parade of young people who will 'bounce their way' from People's Bank Plaza on Main Street to the arena. Third grader Julissa Acevedo got in some practice at her Beardsley School gymnasium. "I can't wait," she said. "I like to shoot baskets but I think I'm better at dribbling. It will be neat to do this on the street." Her classmate Cindy Andino, looking like a future Diana Taurasi, concurs. "It'll be good to go outside," she said. "We've had so many snow days. It's like I haven't played outside since, like, the summer."

Participants of the 'Bounce' will arrive in time for the men's semifinals game, starting at 2 p.m. About 200 kids are expected to take part, with help from the Police Athletic Leagues (PAL) of Bridgeport and Fairfield.

On Saturday, March 5 from 1-5 p.m., Park City SportsFest presented by People's United Bank will take place at Frontage Road and Main Street, Bridgeport. It will feature health and wellness activities from sports and fitness organizations. Participating groups include: Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Fairfield University cheerleaders and dance team, The First Tee youth golf, Martial Arts Spirit Academy, and Simone Lima's Zumba program. Sponsored by the Fairfield County Sports Commission. Events are free.

Image: Bounce to the Arena The MAAC College Fair, taking place Saturday, March 5 from 12-2 p.m., will feature college admission's representatives from all 10 MAAC schools. They will conduct a college fair at the arena for high school students interested in attending college. Participants will receive three free tickets to the women's semifinals.

'The Senior Citizen Group Outing' to the women's championship game on Monday, March 7 at 1 p.m. is an opportunity for seniors to have the hottest ticket in town at a deeply discounted price. Food and beverage packages are available.

Senior centers from Stamford to Milford and up to Danbury were contacted about this special offer. Also planned is the Bus Brigade, a field trip for hundreds of local middle school students to attend the game.

The MAAC features the following member schools: Fairfield, Canisius, Iona, Loyola, Manhattan, Marist, Niagara, Rider, Saint Peter's and Siena.

Basketball fans can also choose from a variety of ticket packages including a family four-pack with refreshments for only $65 plus a handling fee. To purchase tickets for the 2011 MAAC tournament please visit Ticketmaster at or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

Images: (Top) Beardsley School third grader Shoshana Mahon practicing her ball handling skills for 'Bounce to the Arena,' part of the Spark Energy MAAC Basketball Men's and Women's Basketball Championships events. (Middle) Beardsley School students (L-R) Shenett Berdecia, Jazmine Day, Julissa Acevedo, Cindy Andino and Hathe Carvajal. (Bottom) Hathe Carvajal brushes up on her basketball skills in anticipation of a March 6 event.

Posted On: 02-28-2011 11:02 AM

Volume: 43 Number: 216