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But Elstun missed, the Tar Heels scratched back, and in the waning seconds Kearns tied it at 46 from the line.
In the first overtime each team scored only one basket; in the second, none. Carolina was certainly tired by now, and both teams were tight. Back in North Carolina, it was chiming midnight as the Tar Heels went into a third overtime for the second straight night.
Kearns made a basket first and all of a one-and-one to put Carolina up four. But Wilt came back with a three-point play, and when King and Elstun sank free throws, Carolina had one shot, down 53-52. There were 10 seconds left when Quigg ended up with the ball near the top of the key. "It's funny," he says. "I rarely wanted the ball. But this night I'd felt good, right from the start." He made a slight pump fake and drove against the invincible Wilt Chamberlain himself. King, coming across to help out, fouled Quigg just as he got the shot off.
There were six seconds left, and McGuire signaled time out. You're not supposed to do that in these circumstances. If anybody calls time, it's supposed to be the other coach, to get the shooter thinking, nervous. But Frank McGuire never called a bad timeout, and he knew his man, Joe Quigg.
Quigg had hit a solid 72% from the line on the year, but he'd missed the only free throw he'd taken in the game, under pressure in the first overtime. In this particular situation he wasn't a lock. So as soon as the Tar Heels huddled, the first thing McGuire said, calmly, was, "Now, Joe, as soon as you make 'em...." And then he went on to explain how they would work on defense. Before he walked back to the free throw line, Quigg promised everybody that he would make them both.
And he did. Swish. Swish. 54-53.
Not only that, but Quigg was also the one who batted away the last-ditch pass that was intended for Chamberlain in the low post. Kearns retrieved the ball with a couple of seconds left, and after dribbling once, he heaved it away, high up in the air. It's so strange to see a game end that way, all the players looking straight up, half of them helplessly, half in exultation. And then the clock runs out, and all the Kansas players drop their eyes to the floor and walk off. All the Carolina players suddenly lower their heads too—but not down, only around, finding one another, then running into each other's arms: 32-0.
In those medieval times the championship was played in an arena lacking proper locker room facilities, so the players dressed in their hotels. Quigg remembers the odd sensation of winning the national title and then "just running through the streets of Kansas City, all by myself." The air was heavy with mist.
Back at their hotel, the Tar Heels sat around and sort of stared at one another, goofy with delight, "a good tired." Their bodies were only now beginning to comprehend what they had been asked to do the past two nights. Brennan, Cunningham and Kearns had played all 110 minutes. What with the governor there, McGuire quickly threw a victory party. There was such a fuss made over the Tar Heels that the plane that brought them home the next day had to circle the Raleigh-Durham airport for some time until police could clear the runway of well-wishers.
CUNNINGHAM, BRENNAN AND KEARNS FORMED the heart of the 1957-58 Carolina team, and it was a good team, a nice team, and Brennan made first-string All-America and Kearns third, but there was no more magic.