Group Relishes Tar Heels' Win
At about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday, with the ink still fresh on the championship T-shirts, Dr. David Williams and J.C. Young toasted North Carolina's fifth national basketball title.
But the two Thomasville residents and longtime Tar Heel supporters toasted with ice cream-- Haagen Dazs chocolate-chocolate chip.
They were part of a quartet of Thomasville residents who had tickets to the title game between Carolina and Michigan State at Detroit's Ford Field, courtesy of the Boys and Girls Club of the Sandhills. Carolina cruised to an easy 89-72 victory.
Ron Myers, of Pinehurst, won four tickets through a fundraising raffle, which raised about $24,000 to benefit the club. He couldn't go, so he gave the tickets to his mother, Frances, and her friends, Johnny Cutshaw, Young and Williams.
The four along with three others -- Don Lauderdale, Sean Furby and a reporter from The Pilot -- ventured to the Motor City.
"I thought the total package was pretty good," Young said of the trip. "I mean, what could have made it better? Your team is playing for a national championship and you win it, and on top of that you had great seats."
Snowy, cold, windy weather plagued much of the trip, but the Tar Heels' sizzling 21-7 start against the Spartans warmed the hearts of all those clad in Carolina blue.
The start silenced the majority of the nearly 73,000 fans -- a record number to watch an NCAA tournament game -- who were pulling for Michigan State.
The trip winners were treated to a private plane ride to Michigan, accommodations, meals and limo for the trip.
The game was decided early, which left plenty of time for star-watching. Former Tar Heel hoopsters Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and George Lynch were within a short jumpshot of the seats of the four winners. NFL star and UNC football standout Julius Peppers and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell were there, too.
It was one of the memorable moments of a trip that almost didn't happen.
On a warm, sunny Sunday morning, Lauderdal -- who owns the plane and was the pilot -- began calling the travelers in an effort to gather them at the airport early. Bad weather was forecast for Monday, so the departure time had to be bumped up.
"If I can't get everyone to agree to leave early, we may not go," Lauderdale said.
After a few tense hours, and plenty of phone calls, the passengers were headed to the airport and the trip was on.
For much of the trip, the Carolina blue-clad visitors were greeted with polite disdain by Michigan State fans.
On Sunday evening, at a late dinner in a Birmingham pub, several patrons leered at them as they walked through the restaurant. Many muttered things under their breath. As the group departed, one patron spun on his bar stool and reached his hand to Cutshaw and said, "Good luck tomorrow."
Another patron whispered, "Hope you'll need it."
Turns out the Tar Heels did not need any luck Monday night. North Carolina raced to a 55-34 halftime lead, rendering the Spartan fans in the arena all but silent.
With four minutes to go in the game, fans rooting for the local team fled the arena in droves.
After the game, the Heels' fans owned the arena. They sang the UNC alma mater and snapped pictures as fast as they could to preserve the moment.
After the nets had been cut down, the Carolina fans watched the video presentation of "One Shining Moment," which featured memorable moments from the tournament. They lustily booed the Duke highlights and screamed approval for those clips featuring the Heels.
On the ride back to the hotel, the enormity of the moment started to set in.
"We had a great time, right amongst all the great Carolina players," Williams said. "We stayed for all the celebration."
Young added, "And we got to see the governor."
"It was a great experience," Myers said. "I'll never forget it."
More than an hour after the game was over, the happy but tired group -- bags filled with souvenirs tucked under their arms -- piled into the elevator at their hotel. Another man on board asked, "Did you go to the game?"
The response was a weary yes.
"Guess you liked the outcome," the man said.
"Yes. Did you?" came the reply.
"I'm from Michigan," he said, shaking his head.
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2477 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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