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UNC fans celebrate in Chapel Hill, Detroit

Posted April 4, 2009
Updated April 5, 2009

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— University of North Carolina fans celebrated in Chapel Hill and Detroit into the early morning hours of Sunday as the Tar Heels defeated Villanova and advanced to Monday night’s championship game against Michigan State.

Nearly 4,000 people watched the game on a 15-by-20 foot screen in the Dean Smith Center. The dome opened to students, faculty and the general public.

“Since we can’t be at the game, we might as well be here,” UNC senior Sasa Change said.

Carolina blue filled the stands, and fans went crazy with each Tar Heel basket.

“We are pumped,” fan Lisa Claire said.

UNC fan Sandra Wilson traveled with her husband to Detroit to watch the Tar Heels play in person. She has been to every Final Four game the Tar Heels have been in. This year's tickets were a gift from her husband for their 50th wedding anniversary. The couple met at UNC.

"You can't possibly miss this," Wilson said.

Other Tar Heel fans in Detroit gathered at the Detroit Beer Company to watch the game.

"It's awesome hanging out with friends and watching the Heels win a championship," UNC fan William Lawrence said.

Fans gathered on Franklin Street hours before the game, and crowds continued to swell as the evening went on.

Chapel Hill police prepared earlier in the day for the nearly 10,000 fans expected to crowd the street after the game.

“It’s mind blowing,” UNC graduate Amy Booker said. “It’s just the place to be.”

Shortly after midnight, crowds still swarmed the street where some revelers lit bonfires.

More than 200 officers from eight additional agencies were scheduled to patrol Franklin Street Saturday night and Monday night.

Crews bagged parking meters on Franklin Street to indicate no parking after a certain time Saturday night. Portable street lights were also placed along the main thoroughfare.

Police asked fans to not bring flammable items, including alcohol and paint . Lt. Kevin Gunter warned against people bringing glass and, of course, weapons.

Gunter said police did not plan to close the street but were prepared to do so if crowds got too large.

“It’s our job to make sure we have the perimeter setup and men in place,” Gunter said. “If we have to stop traffic, we will, and we’ll close the perimeter and just get in a position where we can monitor the crowd.”

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