HAZARD — The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team won the national championship for the eighth time on Monday, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky erupted in celebration.
The Wildcats went up against three-time NCAA Champions, the Kansas University Jayhawks, in the game at the Super Dome in New Orleans, taking the win by the final score of 67-59.
Many in Perry County celebrated at home, though some like Kristi Horn Bryant said that they took time after the game to get some national championship gear.
“I celebrated by heading to Wildcat Warehouse when the game was over to buy my national champions shirts,” said Bryant.
Like Bryant, many fans went to Wildcat Warehouse to purchase the national championship shirts after the game. Store manager Chrissie Napier said Tuesday morning that people started trying to come into the store before the game was even over.
“The game wasn’t even over and people were already trying to come in, and I was like it isn’t over yet and about this time Kansas was trying to come back,” said Napier. “You can’t celebrate just yet.”
Napier said that once the game ended at around 11:45 p.m., they reopened the store to sell the title shirts. In the two hours the store was open they sold nearly all of them.
“When we came in this morning, all we had left were just a couple of these shirts in 3X and 4X (sizes),” said Napier.
She estimated that they had well over 300 people in the store after the game, and by 10 a.m. Tuesday morning (the store opened at 8 a.m.) they had almost 200 more.
“It is a mad house, but that is the reason they call it March Madness,” Napier added.
She said despite the chaos she and another employee were able to watch the game in the store after they closed for their regular business hours.
“We just hooted and hollered and yelled, because we were the only store that was open so we could kind of do what we wanted,” she continued.
Some other Perry County residents didn’t make it out to Wildcat Warehouse, but they are still sporting their blue and white. Two of those people were Marlin and Geneva Cornett. Geneva joked that she was excited for the game, but the stress of it nearly killed her.
“I thought I was going to have a stroke when they (Kansas) rallied it down to five points, but I survived that stroke,” she said.
Marlin said that while in the past there are often Cinderella stories of lower seeded teams winning the championship, this year the selection committee did a good job ranking Kentucky.
“Then NCAA commissioners finally got it right when they ranked them number one over all,” he said.
Cassandra Artrip said that even though her family was very excited for the game, the late start time made it hard for her children to watch it.
“I am a mom of two small kids that had to go to school today, so we didn’t really celebrate last night,” said Artrip. “We stayed up and watched the game, the kids fell asleep. It was just too late for them.”
Artrip said that they watched all of the coverage of the game last night and this morning, and are very happy with the outcome.
“We are thrilled,” she said. “We are very excited.”
But for others like Dallas Slone, they unfortunately couldn’t watch the game because they were at work.
“I was at work last night, but I listened to it on the radio,” Slone explained.
His wife Melissa did get the chance to watch the game, though, and said she really enjoyed it. The Slones said that even though they were excited, they didn’t celebrate by burning couches or flipping cars like some students in Lexington.
“We have children so we have got to set a good example,” said Melissa.
While most fans celebrated by yelling, jumping, toasting to the team, or just wearing their blue and white proudly, some did take a different approach. Several small fires, fights and even flipped cars filled the streets of Lexington, however, authorities noted that 99 percent of the people were not causing a problem.
Some of the Herald’s Facebook friends said that this rioting put a negative light on a positive event for the Commonwealth. Fay Thacker said, “Was great to see UK win, but the fans that went into riot gear was a downer. It took a lot of the satisfaction away from the win. Kentucky is not that way. We have more class than that.”
But back in Hazard, another Kentucky win at the national championship means continued support for the Wildcats, and Napier said that she expects the craziness at Wildcat Warehouse to continue as well.
“We get a lot of people in here all the time, but this is Christmas all over for us,” she noted. “It is just going to get worse now that Kentucky has won.”
Napier said that they were to receive another shipment of NCAA Championship shirts Tuesday with more colors and sizes, so they will be able to accommodate all of those avid fans that were, at first, unable to get a piece of victory.