Shouts of Pride Echo in Georgetown

By Sue Anne Pressley Montes and Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, March 26, 2007

The pressure of one of the most tense games of the NCAA basketball tournament was released all over M Street last night.

About 1,000 people filled the streets of Georgetown, many honking horns and screaming, a few standing on the tops of parked cars.

Shop owners stood in their doorways, cheering them on.

"All of a sudden, everybody ran out of their dorms," said Katie Abrams, 19, a freshman who participated. Some students lighted fireworks out of their dorm windows.

That's what happens when the home team Georgetown Hoyas are down 10 with about six minutes left in the game against the No. 1 seed in the East and come back to win.

"I wasn't expecting us to win by any means," said Claire Cooper, 19, also a freshman. "I was studying and I heard the yelling get louder and louder. And I had to come out and watch the next few minutes. I'm very proud and very surprised."

It was the topsy-turvy night on and around the campus of the now East Region champion Hoyas.

Students packed O'Donovan Dining Hall to watch their team. Freshman Zivile Badaraite and her friends did what they could to help. They had created "a shrine to our basketball team" with photos and news clippings in the corridors of their dorm. They had donned their lucky gray Hoyas T-shirts. And now they had arranged the tables and chairs in front of the big-screen TVs at O'Donovan, ready to show how much they cared as the Hoyas faced North Carolina.

"It's different when you come to college and see the players -- it's almost like they're your own," said Badaraite, 19.

When the Hoyas got off to a slow start, the fans on campus were down -- but not out.

Solomiya Pyatkovska was not blue that Georgetown was down by six at the half. Well, she was blue -- with a blue Hoyas bandanna around her head, a Hoyas tattoo on her face, blue jewelry and a blue Hoyas T-shirt. But she wasn't disheartened.

"The biggest thing right now is we have to play better defense at the perimeter and make sure they don't make too many three-point shots," she said.

Pyatkovska, a freshman, said she expects Georgetown to win it all. But she said the team had already made her plenty proud.

"It was a good season," she said. "We won the Big East tournament, and that was great in itself."

North Carolina led most of the game, holding its biggest advantage, of 11 points, with 12:13 to play. But with barely four minutes to go, Georgetown cut it to three, and then point guard Jonathan Wallace tied the score with a three-point shot. From there, it was Georgetown all the way.

The dining hall exploded with cheers. Students hugged each other, jumped up and down and grabbed cellphones to call friends to gloat.

Pyatkovska's face was wet with tears. She was ecstatic.

"Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, we're going to the finals!" she said. "This was our toughest challenge yet. We're going to win this whole thing. Amazing!"

Sarah Nelson, 19, a freshman, agreed. "I'm just really excited they pulled it off at the end. They're awesome," she said.

So awesome that fans slowly -- and peacefully -- began to spill onto the quad and then M Street to celebrate.

By about an hour after the game, the celebration had slowed.

But not the jubilation.

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