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UNC quartet hits the high notes in title game

North Carolina's Ty Lawson (left) drives to the basket past Michigan State's Goran Suton during the championship game Monday. Lawson had 21 points and eight steals.

North Carolina's Ty Lawson (left) drives to the basket past Michigan State's Goran Suton during the championship game Monday. Lawson had 21 points and eight steals.

DETROIT – The horn had barely sounded when Danny Green ran onto the court waving a towel, followed closely by Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and the rest of their North Carolina teammates. They ran to midcourt, mobbed each other and jumped around on the Final Four logo.

This was the moment they hoped for.

This was the reason they stayed.

And with Monday night’s 89-72 win over Michigan State, the Tar Heels quartet who considered leaving early for the NBA last year have accomplished what they came back to school to do.

They’ve won the program’s fifth NCAA championship.

“We came back to accomplish something,” Green said. “We had to make some sacrifices. We had to give up a lot of individual things to make this work. I think we did a great job the whole season of being selfless and sharing the ball with each other and sacrificing.

“There were some times were we had some slip-ups, but for the most part, I think we did a great job of working with other and leaning on each other – especially in March.”

Hansbrough finished with 18 points, the final game of a career in which he set the Atlantic Coast Conference’s scoring record and the school’s rebounding mark.

Lawson had 21 points and a championship game-record eight steals, while Ellington scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half to help the Tar Heels take a commanding lead. He ended the night as the Final Four’s most outstanding player. Green had just six points before fouling out with 1:41 to play.

Still, the stats didn’t matter. Not to a team that had carried the Tar Heels to a regional championship game in 2007 and a Final Four last season, only to fall short each time.

But not this time. They roared out of the gate to take a double-digit lead in the first four minutes and made enough plays near the end to thwart the Spartans’ desperate, but ultimately futile, comeback attempts.

“No one tried to play over their head and try to do things they weren’t able to do,” junior Deon Thompson said of the quartet. “They just did things this team needed them to do to win the game.”

The moment was particularly sweet for Hansbrough, who talked openly about how badly he wanted to win a championship from the moment he arrived in Chapel Hill in 2005. He became one of the few four-year stars seemingly left in the college game and the first returning AP national player of the year since Shaquille O’Neal in 1991. Early Tuesday morning, he was sitting in his locker at Ford Field wearing a clipped-down net around his neck – proof that he had indeed achieved his long-awaited goal.

“A lot of outside people were saying we have to win it all or it’s going to be a failure,” he said. “Well, you know what? It’s not a failure. We came back to win a championship. We did and we got the job done. There was a lot of pressure, but no one’s disappointed in this locker room.”

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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