By Dylan Bosse, Maxwell Elam and Parker Gainsburg
April 11, 2017
After all of the upsets, buzzer-beaters and other thrillers, the championship game came down to two number-one seeds. Gonzaga (GU) battled against North Carolina (UNC) for the right to cut down the nets after Michigan, South Carolina and Xavier made their cinderella runs. Emotions were flying high at the University of Phoenix Stadium as both teams were desperate to win for their unique reasons. Even though they have repeatedly made it to the tournament throughout the years, Gonzaga has never won a championship game in their 112 year history. On the other hand, North Carolina was seeking redemption due to last year’s heartbreaking buzzer-beater loss against Villanova during the final.
At the start of the 2017 game, both teams were playing fast-paced with a lot of energy. Shots were falling for Nigel Williams-Goss (GU) and Justin Jackson (UNC), as both are Conference Players of the Year within their respective conferences. Neither team could hold a lead for a long period of time as top players on each team were constantly cancelling each other out. At the halftime break, the Zags held a 35-32 lead.
For the remainder of the game, the refs played a major factor. With seven minutes left in the game, officials had already called 21 fouls in the second half (39 total). This slowed down the game a lot, spoiling both teams’ chances for any type of momentum to close out the game. Many NBA superstars responded to the constant stoppages including Lebron James who said on Twitter, “Man, I can’t watch this anymore, man! I would like to see the kids decide who wins the game!” The two teams still fought as the game came down the stretch. Gonzaga took the ball up the court with 17 seconds left and down 68-65, but Nigel Williams-Goss was blocked on his shot attempt and UNC’s Justin Jackson ended the possession with a hammering dunk to seal the 71-65 victory for the Tar Heels. UNC secured their sixth National Championship as March Madness came to an end with a victory from Chapel Hill.