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Published: Wed, April 05, 2017
Sport | By Desiree Waters

Final Four: Joel Berry II honors pledge to his Carolina teammates

Final Four: Joel Berry II honors pledge to his Carolina teammates

They were playing Gonzaga on Monday night in the national championship game, and UNCW says McGrath will take over the Seahawks the next day. "I felt like nothing was going to stop me from making that".

"We were going to play Collins and Karnowski together to match up size-wise and help us on the glass", Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd said.

Williams didn't have this problem Monday night. "So we just gotta give it our all, '" Joel Berry said after the game.

Hicks' heroics were followed by the big-time play of Meeks, who blocked the shot of Gonzaga's junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss that would have cut UNC's lead to a mere one point with 16 seconds left on the clock.

Josh Perkins was averaging 5.2 points and shooting 34.8 percent from the floor in the first five games of the NCAA tournament, but his play buoyed Gonzaga in the first half, scoring 13 points - more than he's scored in any game since February 23rd, a total he eclipsed just twice since Christmas - and helping Gonzaga jump out to an early nine-point lead, but the Zags, overall, did not play all that well in the first 20 minutes. And I think to be so close for us is a temporarily crushing blow right now. We have been friends for a long time and I know when it's a big-time moment he will step up. Gonzaga senior guard Jordan Matthews said. You're darned right I do. Thirty-three wins. A national championship. Collins, a McDonald's All-American, had emerged as an offensive threat during the tournament, which is why his foul trouble presented such a big loss for Gonzaga. Those Zags were flying by the seat of their trousers, enjoying the ride, undoing one tournament favorite after another, free of expectations. Hicks understood the magnitude of getting one last shot in his final college game.

Make no mistake, this was a terrific college basketball season.

Along the way, this former startup from the 5,000-enrollment Jesuit school in Spokane, Washington, somehow morphed into a lightning rod - a modern blue blood from a mid-major conference, a locus for ridiculous annual takes about strength of schedule and NCAA tournament seeding and NCAA tournament "disappointments", as if Gonzaga hadn't proven how insane the NCAA tournament is in the first place. Somehow, Few became the poster child for concern-trolling about having never been to the Final Four.

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The 2016-17 Gonzaga Bulldogs exploded all of that nonsense into myth. "And we were able to come out with the win".

"I know the type of player he is", Meeks said. This was the Bulldogs' first Final Four appearance.

Gonzaga, a Roman Catholic university in Spokane, Washington, emerged as a Cinderella team in 1999, reaching the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion CT. They didn't ride in on some wacky series of upsets; they weren't some mind-blowing March story that just happened to stick around for an extra weekend. "For us to have four turnovers against the best team in the country is big time for us".

Even Monday wasn't North Carolina's best game. They finished first in ESPN's Basketball Power Index and first in KenPom.com's adjusted efficiency ratings.

The Tar Heels rattled of eight consecutive points to take a 40-35 lead and please former Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who cheered his alma mater from his seat in the North Carolina fan section.

And there's no reason to expect Gonzaga won't be back in this exact same position, sooner rather than later. "I didn't put myself first, I put the team first, and I did whatever I could to be able to be at 100 percent", he said. "And I guess I didn't understand it. Man, it crushes you".

Few described that conversation shortly after he described the 10 minutes he had spent trying to console Williams-Goss.

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