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Final Four send-off

Hundreds of Carolina fans came from near and far to gather outside the Smith Center to wish the basketball team luck one last time before the Final Four.

Lee and Kayla Chambliss drove eight hours from New Jersey to stand outside the Dean Smith Center on Tuesday evening.

But it wasn’t for a game.

It was for two minutes of cheering as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s men’s basketball team headed to Phoenix for the program’s 20th Final Four appearance.

“It’s 100 percent worth it,” Kayla Chambliss said. “We’re here to cheer the team on. We’re just going to be as enthusiastic as we can.”

Hundreds of other Carolina fans gathered outside the Smith Center on March 28 to wish the men’s basketball team luck one last time before the Final Four.

“I love the Tar Heels, so I’m here,” said Carolina first-year student Amber Uddin. “I’ve always been a Carolina fan, so the fact that I get to actually be here and support them is insane for me.”

Sporting Carolina blue, fans cheered as the players and coaches made their way from the Smith Center to the team bus.

While many Tar Heel fans hoisted homemade signs and high-fived the team, Carolina alumna and Chapel Hill resident Donna Bauman held up a 12-year-old newspaper from when her family attended the send-off in 2005 — a championship year.

“It’s good luck to have it with me,” she said.

The No. 1 seeded Tar Heels will now face Midwest Regional champions, the No. 3 seeded Oregon Ducks on April 1 at 8:50 p.m.

Fans are invited to watch that game inside the Smith Center on Saturday night. Both the South Carolina-Gonzaga game at 6:10 p.m., and the Carolina-Oregon game at 8:50 p.m. will be shown on a large projection screen. The viewing is free and open to the general public as Carolina fans continue to cheer on the Tar Heels.

“Just to know that we’re here supporting them is very important,” Uddin said.