Students flood Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street following UNC’s National Championship victory

by Alex Hager

Redemption. That was the word on everyone’s lips as thousands of people clad in Carolina blue swarmed Franklin Street in Chapel Hill on Monday night.

After falling in the final seconds of last year’s NCAA National Championship basketball game, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill beat Gonzaga in Glendale, Ariz., and fans back on campus celebrated in grand fashion.

In one of UNC’s most famous athletic traditions, throngs of Carolina faithful formed a sea of celebration on the corner of Franklin Street and Columbia Street in downtown Chapel Hill. An estimated 55,000 people took to the streets in the early hours of Tuesday morning, according to the Town of Chapel Hill. Many of the revelers were students who poured out of the neighborhood’s iconic bars, while others streamed in from dorms across campus and the school’s official watch party at the Dean Smith Center.

The Tar Heels sealed their victory shortly before midnight, but the lateness of the hour didn’t seem to dampen the festivities, which only began to dissipate around 1 a.m.

Chants and music filled the air and dancing ensued in the streets, displaying widespread elation following UNC’s first national title since 2009. Inside the densely-packed crowd, fans encircled bonfires in the street, burning newspaper, shoes and even sofas in celebration. Others climbed light and electricity poles on street corners, perilously suspended dozens of feet above the street.

Heavy police presence in the area kept the celebrations safe, as uniformed officers guarded light poles, watched the scene from above, and stood sentry throughout the crowd. The town of Chapel Hill reported only seven injuries, including four burn-related injuries.

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Women’s basketball dominates Willam & Mary for program-record 21st win

(Above photo via ENN)

by Alex Hager

The Elon University women’s basketball team dominated both ends of the court against the College of William & Mary in a 70-47 win Sunday afternoon in Alumni Gym.

It was Senior Day in Alumni Gym, and it was a core of Elon’s seniors that propelled the Phoenix to victory. Senior forward Jennifer Rhodes tied for the team-high in scoring with 11 points. In the rebounding column, senior guard Lenaira Ruffin pulled down 12 off the glass. Head coach Charlotte Smith reflected on the five players in their final season with the program with fulfillment.

“We talked about when they first arrived on campus, in that first meeting that we had, and telling the team— the seniors, this class — that they had the potential to turn this program around and make this a championship program, so I’m so proud,” Smith said.

The win against the Tribe marked Elon’s 21st victory of the season, a mark the Phoenix reached for the first time in its 18-season history as a Division I program. Sunday’s win also moved the team to 13-2 in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play, clinching one of the top three seeds in the upcoming CAA tournament.

Elon was able to spread its scoring around on the afternoon as every active member of the roster notched points to their name. The starting lineup was comprised entirely of seniors, but even freshmen Ra’Shika White, Lexi Mercer, and Madison Wilder saw time on the court and made field goals, offering a glimpse at the program’s future. Junior forward Malaya Johnson also made a splash, putting up double-double numbers for the second time this season with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Shay Burnett had 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Phoenix defense held the Tribe to two quarters of single-digit scoring, resulting in a 23-13 Elon lead at the half. The Phoenix finished with 55 total rebounds, tying their second highest total this season. Not only did Elon control the boards, but the Phoenix also forced 13 turnovers and consistently pounced on loose balls.

The win against William and Mary is the second in the row for the Phoenix and, excluding two losses to James Madison University, Elon has won 17 straight. Their efforts have garnered national recognition, landing them at No. 8 in the College Insider Women’s Mid-Major Top 25 ranking. The rankings have fans and players alike thinking about prospects for postseason play.

“I’m just very excited,” Rhodes said. “We have a great team and great possibilities to have a banner hanging in our own gym.”

The Phoenix will next depart on a two-game road trip, traveling to the University of Delaware Friday and Towson University Sunday before returning home for the final game of the regular season against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington March 1.