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Duke Celebrates Despite Devils' Losses

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DURHAM — Duke came home without a national championship trophy, but no one denied that the team put up a devil of a fight. Fans hoped to help ease the agony of defeat with a celebration.

Diehard fans went to Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday feeling good about the season, a precedent set by Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who praised his team at the post-game press-conference.

"We've shared so many great things," he said. "It's not just sharing when everything is great that forms relationships, it's sharing when sometimes things are sad or disappointing, but the common thread is share."

Watch RealVideo of Krzyzewski talking at Cameron.(28.8 modems/ISDN and faster)

Duke returned from St. Petersburg to a rowdy welcome at Cameron - a welcome and party that had a lot more to do with the whole season and not the last game.

"I have been so honored and so blessed to be a part of this program for five years," Duke senior Trajan Langdon said. "It's been unbelievable for me. And to have it end in the way it did this year with this team and with you guys, it's been amazing. It's been the best year of my life."

Watch RealVideo of Langdon speaking at Cameron.(28.8 modems/ISDN and faster)

Krzyzewski told the crowd that everyone should be sad that the season was over, not because of the loss.

"I wanted this season to end with us either crying about how happy we are that we've won a championship, or crying about how sad we are that it is the end."

Duke women's coach Gail Goestenkors was proud of her players as well. "I'm so proud of this team, they've accomplished so much. And no one expected us to go to the Final Four, much less be in the championship game, no one but the people in this stadium right here, so I'm very proud of them. It's been a wonderful journey, and really they've set a new standard for Duke women's basketball," she said.

Goestenkors knows she's losing a slew of seniors next year, but she is also excited by the new challenges.

"We have some great players returning, a tremendous incoming freshman class that's been ranked as high as third in the nation, so we'll be young.

"We'll be a little different, we won't have that big 6'6" center in the middle, but to me that's very, very exciting. People won't expect us to do much so we'll be the underdog, and it's been a long time since we've been the underdog," she said.

Goestenkors is glad the fans are paying tribute to the players. "The players are very deserving," she said. "They poured their hearts and souls out every single night that they went out and played, especially here in Cameron Indoor Stadium, going undefeated in the ACC for the second time at home.

"It just proves how much we love playing in Cameron and how much the fans have really helped us and it's really nice that they can come out and support us one more time," Goestenkors said.

There was no shortage of fan support for the two teams, even in the face of disappointment.

Duke fans fired up the flames Monday night just moments after their hopes for a national championship were crushed.

It was not the victory party students had planned, but devoted fans said they wanted to celebrate a season that came so close to perfection.

"We got to the championship," student Rick Saunders said. "That's a long way. That's further than any other team got, except for UConn."

Student Nat Thomas considered the fire cathartic. "We just decided that it had to happen, people have been building up to this for a long time," Thomas said.

Duke may have fallen short in their bid for a national championship, but their fans stand tall. Students say they are already looking forward to next season.

Duke will throw another party April 23 at Cameron, which will celebrate its basketball tradition.