University of Kentucky win fuels fiery celebration in Lexington streets

jmadden@herald-leader.comApril 5, 2014 

  • NCAA championship game

    Kentucky (29-10) vs. Connecticut (31-8)

    When: 9:10 p.m. Monday (CBS)

    Where: Arlington, Texas

It wasn’t long after the clock hit zero in the University of Kentucky’s win against Wisconsin in the NCAA Final Four on Saturday night that the first celebratory couch was burned in Lexington.

Many others would follow. Lexington fire officials said they had extinguished over 60 fires and treated 30 patients by 2:55 am.

As for arrests, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said she did not have any specifics because police were still collecting information.

“It’s very different than what we’ve seen from last weekend,” she said.

Details were scarce because of the time, but a man was shot in the arm early Sunday on Waller Avenue. Police did not release any details about the shooting. A Herald-Leader reporter saw the man receive treatment and then get rushed off to a hospital.

Aside from the shooting, police teams stayed busy throughout the night and early morning hours, responding to “disorders” or fights, fireworks, alcohol-related offenses, flying bottles and a report of someone “bouncing balcony to balcony.”

Crowds began forming immediately after the game. Police took positions in the streets and employed crowd-control tactics.

As UK claimed the game’s final stretch, police massed along Limestone. Some fans even took selfies with them. The cop selfie was quite popular among fans on South Limestone.

Levi Gourdie, 20, of Indianapolis, was in town for a convention and proclaimed himself a newly minted Wildcat fan.

“I am beyond pumped,” he said, walking Limestone in a dress jacket and tie.

Things were more rambunctious on State Street. By about 11:40 p.m., an estimated 3,000 people crowded into the area. Keith Horn was among those celebrating on State Street.

“We won,” he said. “I can’t believe we won. It’s awesome.”

Earlier in the night, the floors of Two Keys Tavern were slick with spills, the revelers’ bodies pressed together and the crowd erupted every time UK made a basket.

In fact, the bars along South Limestone exploded into a ruckus each time the Wildcats scored against the Badgers. The echoes could be heard blocks away at UK Samaritan Hospital and Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church. The stretch of South Limestone between Two Keys Tavern, 333 South Limestone, and Maxwell Street was effectively a pedestrian walkway where television screens were at a premium and latecomers milled in front of packed bars that they did not stand a chance of entering.

And still they stood in the chilly night air, cheering.

A similar scene existed farther up South Limestone on State Street, which has become a well-known party spot.

More fans were watching the game on porches this weekend than last. Bottles of alcohol were scattered throughout the neighborhoods, and Tupac’s Picture Me Rollin blasted at one house.

Celebrations started early for some fans. Chuck Skinner said he started drinking at 5 p.m. because “we were anxious.”

“All day we’ve been partying for the game, then one hour before the game, we were like, ‘We’ve got a Final Four game to prepare for.’”

Even with Kentucky trailing early in the game, Skinner said he wasn’t worried.

“I feel confident we’re going to win,” he said. “We’re playing every possession like it’s zero to zero. Every possession counts.”

Skinner said UK has been “a second half team no matter what. Every single game we’ve been tied or losing.”

Most fans joined him in starting the festivities early. An early start was an especially critical strategy for fans who wanted to get a spot in one of the crowded campus bars or restaurants.

UK student Michal Carrico had moved forward 10 feet in 20 minutes trying to get onto the patio at the Tin Roof during the second half of the Connecticut-Florida game.

“We’re definitely going to win,” he said hopefully.

Carrico said that’s why it was important to be out in lines, waiting to mill with others on a chilly spring patio where clusters of police cars, taxis, tow trucks and bicycle pedicabs were a constant presence.

Fellow UK student Chris Smith was more precise: “I think we can match up pretty good with anybody else. ... If (Wisconsin player Frank) Kaminsky doesn’t shoot too many threes, we should be good.”

While the line to get into the Tin Roof, 303 South Limestone, was daunting, it was straightforward compared with the multiple access points and line lengths at Two Keys.

Those who did get inside were packed shoulder to shoulder.

Outside, Pierce Birdsong waited to get in and showed off the blue tie-dyed t-shirts he hoped to sell after the game.

“I like to capitalize,” Birdsong said.

Brooke Jones waited in several lines at Two Keys trying to join friends inside. Her wait was frustrating, as she had not managed to enter as the game was about to begin.

Would she get inside?

“Probably not,” Jones said.

Jaclyn Lunsford, who was riding on Jack Martin’s shoulders, said she was “in disbelief.”

“I’m in utter shock,” she said.

Martin said that “to do it with freshmen is unbelievable.”

Beth Hicks, who was on Limestone near Sav’s Chill, said “tonight was amazing.”

“I can’t wait for Monday,” she said.

Limestone was far more subdued than State Street, where celebrations carried on well after the game.

At about 2:30 a.m., Thomas Akins was standing as sentry behind a rope across his driveway on Crescent Avenue as wobbly students filed past. He said he’s lived there for 10 years.

Akins groaned because an officer had told him the police expected students to be partying until 4 a.m. Street sweepers actually began moving crowds out after the reported shooting. Still, Akins wanted to stick it out so he could protect his property.

“As long as I’m out here, I won’t have any trouble,” he said.

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service