Apopka’s Joel Berry II leads North Carolina to National Championship

Apopka’s Joel Berry II leads North Carolina to National Championship

Scores 21 as Tar Heels Beat Gonzaga 71-65

Joel Berry II

Phoenix, AZ – Apopka’s Joel Berry II scored 22 points, grabbed three rebounds, had six assists, two steals, and blocked one shot in leading his North Carolina Tar Heels to a 71-65 victory over the University of Gonzaga Bulldogs. One year after a stunning loss to Villanova at the buzzer, the Tar Heels claimed their sixth NCAA championship.

Berry led North Carolina in scoring and was named most outstanding player in the Final Four. Berry played two games in three days despite two nagging ankle injuries.

“My teammates believed in me,” Berry said. “They pushed me to keep playing. I wasn’t one hundred percent, but I gave it my all.”

The No. 1-seeded Tar Heels returned many of the players who left the court in Houston devastated a year ago. But in Phoenix, they could finally bask in the confetti that rained down from the rafters.

They beat Gonzaga, another No. 1 seed, which was making its first appearance in the Final Four. The Bulldogs (37-2), representatives of a small Jesuit school in Spokane, Wash., have never won a NCAA championship in any team sport. The men’s basketball team has been a constant presence in the NCAA tournament for nearly two decades, but this year — with only one loss coming into Monday — was arguably their strongest team to date.

Berry, a junior point guard for the Tar Heels, played high school basketball at Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando, Florida. He led his team to three state titles and was the first player named Florida Mr. Basketball three times. He was named a Parade All-American and McDonald’s All-American as a senior in 2014. At North Carolina, Berry has led the Tar Heels, averaging 14.6 points, 3.7 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game this season.

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