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Kentucky Fans Celebrate OT Victory

March 29, 1998

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ The streets were packed Saturday night, and this was just a warmup for what Kentucky fans _ and police _ plan to see.

During the final minutes of the Wildcats’ 86-85 overtime win against Stanford in the NCAA tournament semifinals, more than 100 Lexington police officers in full riot gear lined the intersection of Woodland and Euclid avenues _ the scene of $40,000 in damage during postgame celebrations after Kentucky’s championship win in 1996.

``It’s scary _ all these police,″ said Brian Curling, a University of Kentucky senior from Lexington, prior to the win. ``It looks like they’re just waiting for something bad to happen.″

A few minutes later, however, the officers didn’t seem quite so formidable as thousands of jubilant Wildcat fans poured into the street.

Fireworks exploded, beer cans soared in the air and people sat on each other’s shoulders yelling, ``Cats rule.″

``I picked the best four years to be at UK,″ yelled Meloday Flowers, a senior from West Virginia.

Following Kentucky’s 1996 championship victory _ when more than 12,000 fans gathered at the same intersection _ a television news van was overturned and set on fire. In addition, Lexington police chief Larry Walsh said more than $40,000 in damage was done to nearby businesses and homes in the area, in addition to $14,000 worth of damage to police cruisers.

This year, Walsh said officers were prepared for the celebration.

``We’re here to see that nobody gets hurt,″ he said.

Despite knowing what could happen with a victory Monday night against Utah, Walsh said the officers still rooted for Kentucky.

``The problems would be over if they lost, but we’re here so they might as well win,″ Walsh said.

Hetty Carriero, owner of Everybody’s Natural Foods and Deli, said her restaurant lost more than $1,000 because of the incessant partying.

``Everybody knew from past experience the type of crowd that came in and they didn’t want to be a part of it,″ Carriero said.

Two Keys Tavern in Lexington was filled to capacity for the game with 800 customers. Fans lined up outside to get in the bar before it opened at 9 a.m. By noon, Terry Fisher, a doorman at Two Keys, said there were no tables available.

Earlier in the day, Mike George, manager of Kentucky Korner in the Lexington Mall, said his store specializing in University of Kentucky merchandise had seen a more than 100 percent increase in business this week.

``Everyone wants their blue stuff and we’ve got plenty of it,″ George said.

George said the store already is planning for huge sales if Kentucky wins the championship.

``We’ll do everything in our power to have shirts Tuesday morning,″ he said.

Kim Robinson, operations manager at the UK bookstore, said she plans to have staff in at 4 a.m. Tuesday to receive the coveted T-shirts if Kentucky wins Monday night.

``Two years ago, before we opened the doors, people were there with their noses against the glass,″ she said.

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