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NCAA Final: Fans celebrate another title in Chapel Hill

By Joedy McCreary
Associated Press
CHAPEL HILL ó Scott Blackburn had nearly all of Monday night to prepare for North Carolina’s inevitable crowning as national champions once again.
Yet the moment still overwhelmed the 26-year-old Tar Heels fan.
“It was destiny,” he said. “It was Tyler’s destiny.”
Blackburn was one of the thousands of fans who descended upon Chapel Hill to cheer on the Tar Heels as they claimed their fifth NCAA title by beating Michigan State 89-72 in Detroit in a rather drama-free championship game.
Students and fans packed the Smith Center to watch Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and the rest of coach Roy Williams’ team in larger-than-life fashion, on a 16-foot-by-20-foot screen and four video scoreboards.
Moments after the doors opened, hundreds of students and fans made mad dashes through the concourse and down the aisles to secure the best seats ó some directly below the banners that commemorate the school’s previous national titles.
The rowdy fans jumped around before the opening tip, as is customary here before a game. They roared with glee as the Tar Heels needed only about four minutes to build a double-digit lead. And after they went up by 20 midway through the first half ó making victory almost certain ó the time on the game clock couldn’t tick away quickly enough.
Then again, it felt like it had been ticking for four long years for senior Kathy Walker. The bass drummer in the pep band was a high school senior in nearby Mebane for the most recent title in 2005.
“I was like, ‘One time while I’m here,’ ” said the English and psychology major who painted herself blue for the occasion.
She matched the overwhelming majority of the more than 10,000 fans inside the 21,750-seat arena who wore T-shirts, jerseys and anything else they could find that came in the light shade of blue known locally as “Carolina blue.”
She, and others, took it to the extreme. Lifelong fan Tommy Tinnin made the hour’s drive east from Greensboro to watch the game with the crowd, sitting halfway up the lower concourse outfitted in a light blue windbreaker ó and a wig to match.
“This is kind of a big game thing,” he said. The forklift operator for a Greensboro tobacco company pledged to celebrate a Tar Heels victory by donning the fake hair at work Tuesday.
“After we win this thing, I’m going to go up on Franklin (Street) and enjoy that,” he added. “There’s nothing like that, I’m telling you.”
He wasn’t alone. Bars along the campus’ main downtown drag filled throughout the day in anticipation of the Tar Heels’ title.
Guy Murphy, the general manager at Top of the Hill restaurant on Franklin Street, said “a couple of hundred” people lined up around the block ó some camping in tents as early as 2 a.m. Monday ó to claim tickets for reserved seating in the restaurant’s dining and patio area.
By Monday evening, an around-the-corner line at the door seemed to fulfill Murphy’s prediction for his 450-capacity restaurant: “We’ll have every square foot filled up.”
“There’s definitely a buzz about town,” Murphy said. “There’s Carolina blue everywhere.”
After their last championship, nearly 50,000 fans poured onto Franklin for a post-game party that lasted into the early morning hours, and a similar turnout was expected this time.
“We have no reason to think it would be any smaller this year,” said Chapel Hill Police Capt. Chris Blue. He said 330 officers from several law enforcement agencies were on duty Monday night.
 
 
 

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