By: Trey Walker
Monday night was rough for Tar Heel fans across the country. Kris Jenkins single-handedly denied Carolina of suspending their 6th national title banner in the rafters of the Dean Dome.
On paper, yes Villanova won the 2016 national title, but all you Tar Heels out there: Hold your heads high.
This season has been the tale of ups and down for our Heels. Some of our lowest moments came in the 2 point defeat to the Texas Longhorns in late December (Shaka Smart caught a break with the no-call foul against Marcus Paige in the closing seconds), or in a frustrating home loss to the Blue Devils which left many people questioning Coach Williams coaching ability- Even the #FireRoy crowd resurfaced.
In the frustration and sadness of the Duke loss, a fire was lit under the Heels. A fire that led to most of this seasons positive memories. For the remainder of the season this squad looked revived, and cruised their way to an ACC Regular Season title, an ACC Championship title, and a trip to the National Championship in Houston, Texas.
For a while, this year’s NCAA tournament was comparable to the magnificent title run in 2009. Slow starts were followed by strong finishes. Until the championship, all of Carolina’s games had been won by 16 or more points. The college careers of Yogi Ferrell, Michael Gbinije, and VJ Beachem: all ended at the feet of UNC.
Win after win, it seemed surreal that once again, after a short 7 year drought, the boys in blue would be playing for the title.
Monday, April 4th, 2016 9:20 Tip-Off
After one half of play, things were looking promising. Joel “Strong Man” Berry II was a walking bucket; he entered the intermission with 15 points off of 6-7 shooting. Up five, the only thing left Carolina had to do was keep shooting well and maintain their lead.
Sorry guys, teams don’t win championships for 1st half performances.
Villanova came out of the locker room on a tear. Jay Wright had conveyed to his boys that they were still in the game.
Fouls, on fouls, on fouls….
This was the story of the 2nd half. At one point, the officials had charged Carolina EIGHT straight personal fouls. It became evident (when both teams entered the bonus above the 10 minute mark) that this game would be earned from the charity stripe.
31.7 percent shooting from the Heels only helped the Cats to control the second half. A 9 point lead by Villanova had shrunk to 3 point with just 13 seconds left.
Then this happened.
Houses and bars across the state erupted in shouts and and cheers.
Tar Heel enthusiast, and Broughton Junior Vance Brice recalls the moment inside the Dean Dome, “I have never seen a place get so loud, so quick. It was really something special.”
Paige’s miracle heave tied the game, and had given his team one last chance. Coach Williams promptly called a timeout following the shot and debriefed his team about the 4 seconds that remained. They had to keep the ball from going through the hoop just one time.
“Villanova inbounds it, Arcidiacono has it front court……. Arcidiacono to Jenkins….. For the Buzzer Beater…… GOT IT!” – Title Game announcer
And that was it. Dreams crushed. Aspirations gone. Banner gone. Rings? Not getting them.
Streamers shot from the ceiling and the celebration festivities had begun.
Despite losing, Marcus’ shot will be remembered forever. It was simply sensational. His career had shaky moments at times but he never failed to represent the University of North Carolina well, on the court or in the classroom(1st team All-American Academic Team). This group showed the world that a title can still potentially be won the “old fashioned” way by developing 4 year players instead of a roster filled with one-and-dones.
We will miss you, 5. We will look up at the rafters and remember what a decorated career you had. You embody a true leader with good character. Thank you for a great 4 years.
P.S.: In your face, NCAA. You have been clouding skies in Chapel Hill for 6 years and still haven’t made a decision on the academic misconduct allegations. Recruiting has taken a huge hit, and you have made talented athletes afraid of attending UNC. It’s ok though. Clearly the program is persevering through this 6 year rough patch and winning nonetheless.