Sunday, April 18, 2021
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Magic Strikes at Midnight

Alex Yee | Staff Photographer

The stage was set. As the UC Irvine student body began to trickle into the Bren Events Center, there was a strong sense of anticipation and excitement that the men’s and women’s basketball teams could feel. There was not a single motionless body amongst the players. Pacing back and forth, cracking jokes, huddling up every so often to remind each other of why they were there. With their fresh Nike kicks slung over their shoulders while occasionally bobbing their heads back and forth to the hip-hop mixes that echoed in the hallway, they were ready. Images of former UCI basketball players blistered the white walls. Those men and women had their time. Tonight was their night to shine.

Midnight Magic would be the first opportunity for the 2010 UC Irvine Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams to formally introduce themselves to the campus. With a showcase of their shooting and athletic abilities, the three-point battle of the sexes and the dunk competition proved to be a big hit. This year would be the women’s turn to dominate.

Forward Jacquelyn Marshall, guard Jade Smith-Williams and newcomer Taylor Champion defeated the men’s side that was represented by guards Jonas Lalehzadeh, Mike Wilder and Derrick Strings.

“Working hard and not cutting corners is all it takes,” Marshall said.

Directly following the shootout, the men’s team showcased their high-flying acrobatics in the Dunk-Off. Forwards Pavol Losonsky and Kevin Mulloy, along with guards Emil Kim, Daman Starring and Darren Moore battled it out on the hardwood.

It came down to Moore and Starring in the finals, but Starring’s inability to convert his final dunk gave Moore a clear advantage. Moore once again wowed the crowd with a series of alley-oop dunks that were both creative and original.

“I just wanted to go out there and have a good time,” Moore said. “I have been practicing my dunks every day to get ready for tonight, and I came through. The atmosphere was great and the team feels really good.”

Although Moore took home bragging rights for the second consecutive year, it was head coach Russell Turner’s dunk that brought down the house. Starting at the top of the key, Turner threw down a one-handed slam that got the Bren Events Center crowd on their feet.

“I told my guys to go out there and be themselves,” Turner said. “This is the type of event, that if you do it well people will come out and support our team, and that responsibility is on us to be a supportable team.”

Midnight Magic is only the beginning of what both teams hope to be a successful season.

“We just want to get as many people out to the games as possible. It’s with our coaching staff and the support of the school that we can do big things this year,” Moore said.