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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Student fans subdued, reflective after Gonzaga loss

Gonzaga University basketball fan Bailey Kelso, left, embraces friend Lauren Wilkin at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane after the Bulldogs fell to North Carolina in the national title game Monday night. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The students filing out of McCarthey Athletic Center weren’t particularly loud.

A few, who gave up on Gonzaga pulling out a championship win with seconds left on the clock, swore loudly before walking away from the stadium. Some yelled, “Go Zags!” and stopped to take pictures in front of the large bulldog outside.

Across the street on a soccer field, Gonzaga staff had set up speakers to blast upbeat music. Large plastic bags held red, white and blue balloons that would have been released in the event of a Gonzaga victory.

“It’s all right, it’s sad. We’re all sad,” said one young woman walking by, looking at the unused balloons.

Others searched for a silver lining.

“We fought hard!” another young woman yelled toward a television camera, drawing cheers from nearby students.

An hour after the game, the streets around Gonzaga were mostly quiet. A handful of fans milled around outside bars on Hamilton Street, some looking dejected, others planning to spend the night with friends.

At Scotty’s Doghouse, fans gathered in a fenced area behind the bar, where a DJ spun upbeat dance hits as Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s face glowed larger than life on a screen.

Shaquise Moseley, a senior at Eastern Washington University, was among the few who stuck around after the game to dance and celebrate a good season with her three friends. She grew up in Spanaway, Washington, and said she felt lucky to be in Spokane for the Zags’ run at the championship.

“The defense has been great, the offense has worked great together,” she said. “I’m living here and I got to experience this. I’m in the moment right now!”

Moseley’s friend, fellow EWU senior Allena Warren, shared her enthusiasm.

“I’m very proud to be from Spokane,” she said.

Spokane police had extra officers on duty Monday night “to make sure everyone celebrates safe,” department spokesman Officer Shane Phillips said.

But there was little going on in the Logan Neighborhood following the game, Officer Nick Briggs said. Mostly, officers were seeing “lots of disappointed people walking around.”

“Everybody’s being fairly well-behaved,” he said.

Not every city has reacted so peacefully following the NCAA basketball championship.

Though there’s no comprehensive data on sports riots, reporters at Five Thirty Eight put together a list of about 50 since 1968 in the U.S. and Canada. Most occurred after wins.

NCAA basketball has had at least one riot in each of the past three years, news reports show. The Five Thirty Eight list include 11 March Madness riots from 2000 to 2015.

The most recent, last year, was at Villanova where police arrested a handful of fans following the university’s tournament win. NBC reported 27 people were injured in the fights and celebrations following the win. Most injuries were minor, though they included a few broken bones.

In Lexington, Kentucky, fans set fires and fought following the Wildcats’ Final Four loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in 2015. Police arrested 31 people, according to the New York Post.

And in 2014, Arizona fans threw firecrackers and beer bottles at Tucson police following the team’s NCAA loss. Officers arrested 15 people, Fox News reported.

Late Monday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, fans were outside celebrating with fireworks and a handful of small fires into the wee hours of the morning, the News & Observer reported.

Back on the Gonzaga campus, a group of four students decided to work out their feelings through movement. They ran around the soccer field, playing with one of the oversized blue balloons that had been meant for a victory party, bouncing it back and forth in the air.

The speakers behind them were playing Pitbull’s “Time of Our Lives.”

“This is for anybody going through tough times/Believe me, been there, done that/But every day above ground is a great day, remember that.”