UNC dreams are dashed in 5 seconds

Published 10:26 am Thursday, April 7, 2016

The outcome was supposed to be so different. There should have been rejoicing on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill as thousands of UNC students celebrated yet another national championship for the Tarheel basketball team.

Local fans would have been joining the chorus at work the next day. The Carolina faithful would have worn their sky-blue clothes as a sign of loyalty and joy.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, like a stab in the chest, a Villanova player launched a desperation 35-foot jumper at the buzzer that … swished through the net.

Villanova won.

UNC Coach Roy Williams and the State of North Carolina staggered in disbelief. We held our chest sensing a heart attack.

I’m only a tepid Carolina supporter, ever loyal to my alma mater, Western Carolina. But old Coach Roy is hard not to love when he liberally sprinkles his talk with “dad-gums.” And I’ve always thought Carolina should beat any team from north of the Mason Dixon Line.

Alas, it didn’t happen.

Did it seem like a pall descended upon all of North Carolina after the Monday night game?

The Carolina faithful trailed in to work late and bleary-eyed, trying to avoid conversation or even the memory of their Night of Tears.

Trailing as the last minutes ticked past, Carolina’s furious comeback was highlighted by an off-balance, double-clutch desperate heave by guard Marcus Paige to tie the game with five seconds left. The ghost of Coach Dean Smith’s legendary victories at the buzzer seemed alive. Carolina’s mojo was back. Paige’s shot should have been remembered as one for the ages.

But there were five second left.

In life, what can you accomplish in a mere five seconds? The game seemed naturally headed to an overtime which would complete Carolina’s comeback quest for another national championship.

Five seconds. Can you throw the ball in bounds, dribble up the court, shovel a pass to forward Kris Jenkins and have him launch a winning shot before the buzzer sounds? Of course not. The shot would be too late. It would clang off the rim. It would miss. Time would expire.

But not this time.

Uncertainty is part of the lure of basketball. On some nights, the basket seems bigger. On others, the ball just won’t fit inside. UNC basketball alums, including Michael Jordan, consoled the current crop of Tarheels after the game. It was a gem of a game.

• • • •

She seems to have done pretty well for herself since I saw her last in 1976 at the Granite Quarry middle school gymnasium. As a cub reporter for the Salisbury Post,  I was assigned to do a story on Dolly. The country singer with big hair and amazing curves had just left mentor Porter Wagoner for a solo career.

She headlined a show that included Moe Bandy and Jack Greene of “There Goes My Everything.”

Dolly is scheduled to perform June 3 at the Greensboro Coliseum. Tickets are $55, $75 and $95. I don’t know what tickets were at Granite Quarry that night, but I’m pretty sure they were less.

What I remember most about Dolly was her graciousness. She signed autographs for a long line of fans.

As a Tennessee mountain girl, she’s the epitome of country music’s heritage. The young singer from 40 years ago at Granite Quarry, however, now commands a higher ticket price.

— Dwight Sparks