Piedmonters got to experience March Madness on their home court Thursday evening.
In fact, folks in attendance at the fourth annual Basketball Foundation March Madness fundraiser at Veterans Hall in downtown Piedmont were treated to an excellent quartet of games. They watched broadcasts of the nightcap games of the beloved opening round of the NCAA college men's basketball tournament.
"This year's event was bigger than ever," said program director Heidi Monical. "It's fabulous. And it supports basketball, which is why we are here."
The annual showcase was staged by the Piedmont Basketball Foundation. By the end of the night, more than 100 people were in attendance, including elementary and middle school basketball players, parents, boosters, coaches, alumni, and fans of Piedmont basketball.
"This is a fantastic event," said Luke Heller, head coach of the Piedmont sixth grade team. "The more kids we can get here, the more we can expose them to the game of basketball. March Madness is the best. I think it beats the Super Bowl."
The party, which included big screens showing all four games of the NCAA tournament's nightcap and offerings from eateries such as Top Dog and Pyramid Brewery, gave the event a sporty yet household feel.
Most people in attendance had a personal connection to Piedmont. The fever spiked toward the end of the night, when the game between Michigan State and UCLA came down to the final seconds (Bruins 78, Spartans 76).
Earlier, fans were given the chance to pick their own brackets for a chance to win a new iPad2. The "pool," which has each participant trying to pick the winner of every game in the 64-team field, has been a great way to raise money for the foundation, according to foundation President Justin Roach.
This year, noted Roach, more people took part in the $20-per-entry pool than ever before.
"People are realizing how fun (the event) can be," said Roach. "We've gone online with our tournament brackets, and more and more people are buying in and playing. The money goes right back to the foundation. Fans can then come here and watch the teams they picked."
With added attention and demand came added twists this year — a portable basketball hoop for the kids, a table sale of Piedmont sweaters and hoodies, and other items.
The foundation has rolled out another fundraiser event that they hope will catch on. On March 27, the foundation will be hosting a 3-on-3 indoor basketball tournament for anyone who thinks their basketball game is up to par.
"We like to use this event to acknowledge all the volunteers — which includes all of our coaches," said Roach. "People here in attendance really have a passion for basketball, and it's a nice way to kick off our season."