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Neighborhood comes alive for Zags’ Final Four appearance

UPDATED: Sat., April 3, 2021

The neighborhood erupted when Jalen Suggs’ overtime buzzer-beater fell.

“Let’s gooooooo!” “Let’s go, Zags!”

Thousands of Gonzaga University students couldn’t stop screaming those words again and again (and again) Saturday night after the Bulldogs defeated the UCLA Bruins in what will surely be remembered as a March Madness classic.

Students danced in the streets and on their lawns. Hundreds of drivers honked their horns incessantly. At least a dozen police cars and a firetruck patrolled the area. A helicopter circled overhead.

And the yelling kept coming.

The bombastic screams made it clear Gonzaga had pulled off a last-second win.

Across the neighborhood around campus, students shouted as Suggs sank a 3-point basket to move Gonzaga to the NCAA Tournament championship game.

As of 9 p.m., the heavy law enforcement presence appeared to have discouraged any celebratory couch-burnings like the one that occurred Tuesday after Gonzaga’s Elite Eight win over USC. A handful of police cars were parked at the site of that incident, while another cluster of cruisers guarded a battered — but unburnt — couch sitting on a nearby street corner.

Before the game, around 5 p.m. Saturday, small packs of Gonzaga students walked about the neighborhood in their finest Bulldogs gear.

Chickadees and robins sang from the trees.

And students prepared for the big NCAA game the same way college kids have for decades: Seemingly every other house had a beer pong table out front.

There were sturdy tables, custom-painted to look like the Zags’ home court, and haphazard ones that were little more than a piece of plywood balancing on two makeshift sawhorses. Shouts of “Let’s go!” carried through the streets when someone drained a shot into a red Solo cup.

And then, at 5:34 p.m., the tables emptied in unison. It was time to put down the ping pong balls and watch the Zags make some shots.

Students pulled their TVs out to front porches or backyards. Some lugged frayed couches onto lawns or sat in camping chairs.

At tipoff, CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz’s voice could be heard from almost every street corner within a mile of the Gonzaga campus. Synchronized hoots, claps and moans drowned him out after every big Gonzaga or UCLA point.

People who live near the university are used to the energy March Madness brings to the neighborhood. Resident Curtis Mokrey said it’s like this every time the Zags make the Final Four.

It might be a bit more extreme this year, though, because the team’s undefeated.

“I get the score when I hear the cheering,” Mokrey said with a grin.

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