PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — After four years, Leaky Black stepped on the ladder.
He approached it slowly — the whole team took its time. After the handshake line, head coach Hubert Davis cried. Players donned Carolina blue t-shirts that read “Cut the Nets.” They threw on gray hats with “Final Four” written across them. They danced and laughed and raised their arms to a crowd of North Carolina fans migrating to the Wells Fargo Center's lower bowl.
Then, with celebrations done, tears turned to smiles and reality set in.
Black stepped on the ladder and cut down a small piece of the net. For the first time in his career, there was a reason to cut one down.
The North Carolina men’s basketball team defeated St. Peter’s, 69-49, on Sunday, earning a trip to New Orleans for the Final Four.
“His energy and his passion, his love for this program and this team,” Davis said of his veteran Tar Heel. “He’s not someone that talks a lot, but by his actions he’s a leader."
First to climb the ladder was Black, who has spent his four years in Chapel Hill playing for every sort of North Carolina team — the dominant No. 1 seed, the ACC bottom feeder, the bubble dwellers and first round loser and now, the Cinderella.
Then, there was Armando Bacot, who came to Chapel Hill a vaunted five-star expected to help revitalize losses from the previous year’s team. Things didn’t go to plan, and his three years had been spent straddling the bubble and scrapping for the hope of a moment like this.
Then there was Caleb Love, RJ Davis and Brady Manek, all of whom have spent their short UNC careers on teams that seemed to be drifting further away from the typical success that comes with wearing the blue words “North Carolina” across their chests.