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Evan Marinofsky | NCAA.com | March 27, 2022

Arkansas cheerleader retrieves stuck ball as cheerleaders continue to save the day

Cheerleaders continue to save the day at March Madness

When Stanley Umude's three-pointer bounced off the rim and got stuck on the top of the backboard in Saturday's Elite Eight matchup between No. 2 Duke and No. 4 Arkansas, everyone in the arena knew what had to happen. 

They had seen this song and dance before. 

A little more than a week prior in a matchup between No. 5 Saint Mary's and No. 12 Indiana, a missed shot created the most viral moment of the first round. 

Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis went to grab a pass around the Saint Mary's rim and it deflected off his fingers, bounced off the shot clock and settled right along the top of the backboard. It didn't matter that the sport being played was basketball and there were more than enough tall people in the vicinity — the ball was stuck 13 feet in the air. Seven-foot-four Matt Van Komen of Saint Mary's and seven-foot Michael Durr of Indiana were no match. 

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Players, referees and arena employees tried everything to get the ball down. They waved at it with a mop. Nothing. They even pulled out a chair for the referee to get up on with the mop. Still nothing. 

That's when Indiana cheerleader Cassidy Cerny and her stunt partner Nathan Paris got the bright idea to put their cheerleading skills to the test. Paris lifted Cerny up like he'd done hundreds of times before and she retrieved the ball to the deafening cheers of the arena and an electric call for those watching at home from CBS' Andrew Catalon. 

"Yes, get the cheerleader up — get her up there!" Catalon exclaimed. "This is how you do it! Give her the mop — nah, she's got it!" 

So, when Umude's ball landed in the exact same spot as the ball in the Indiana game, you could see the Arkansas cheerleaders behind the hoop begin to stir with excitement — who would be the chosen one to retrieve this ball and get their moment in March Madness? 

Well, this time it was Bella Shelley and stunt partner Kaiden Thrailkill of the Arkansas spirit squad who were the lucky ones chosen to knock the ball off the top of the hoop. And so Shelley did with Thrailkill holding her up, as the crowd roared in approval. That's two assists — so far — coming from cheerleaders in this tournament. 

Anything really can happen in March. 

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