North Carolina

Thousands flood Franklin Street after UNC beats Gonzaga in title game

With 7.2 seconds remaining in the national title game between North Carolina and Gonzaga, Tar Heel fans took their chances. They erupted from every corner into the center of town, the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets. The noise was earsplitting.

Three floors above, at Top of the Hill, a mass of bodies pushed forward toward the concrete railing, each straining to hold his or her camera highest.

The Tar Heels ended up beating the Bulldogs, 71-65, and about 10 minutes into the celebration, fireworks began. So did a couple of fires, and the air smelled like smoke.

A young man climbed the pole at the southwest corner of the intersection and made a daring attempt at one of the street signs, which perhaps intentionally had been hung from the cables spanning the intersections instead of being affixed directly to the poles, as they have been in years past. He hung by one arm from a light fixture, pumped his fist, and bear-hugged his way back down the pole.

Fans sweated through their shirts. Some drank from bottles and cans openly. Beach balls bounced over outstretched hands, many of them holding phones aloft.

It is 12:20 a.m. now, and while the noise has softened, the fires are still raging. New ones are popping up every now and then, and others are dying down. No one is leaving.

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