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Despite disappointing loss, Cameron Crazies celebrate seniors' careers

It was the last game they'd play at Cameron Indoor Stadium as Blue Devils. It was the last time they'd hear the deafening chants of the Cameron Crazies as they set their feet to shoot.

It was the last regular season game of what will undoubtedly be a memorable season for seniors Sean Dockery, Patrick Johnson, Lee Melchionni, Ross Perkins, J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams.

Before their last tip-off at home Saturday, Duke's six seniors had their moment to salute the fans, parents and the place they have devoted the last four years to.

Holding back tears in what was an emotional night, Melchionni paid homage to his home in Durham. As he approached center court, he got down on his hands and knees, and kissed the hardwood, eliciting roaring cheers from the crowd.

And even though the night ended in a disappointing loss to No. 13 North Carolina, that almost seemed secondary to lauding the seniors.

"I want to thank our fans," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Saturday's game. "They were unbelievable. They were positive. They were classy. They honored our seniors in such a magnificent way."

As cheers of "Thank you, seniors" echoed throughout the night, Duke's graduating class battled against the Tar Heels' freshmen, who carried the game for North Carolina. But even in the loss, the seniors were hailed by the fans for their Duke careers.

The appreciation was reciprocated as each of the seniors told the sold-out crowd how special their time at Duke has been, playing in front of such knowledgeable and passionate basketball fans.

"One of the reasons why I really chose to come back was because of you guys," Williams said of the Cameron Crazies when he addressed the crowd after the game.

With sharpshooter Redick and defensive stopper Williams back for their senior seasons, this year has been tabbed by many as a historical one for Duke and its players.

Redick's 2,638 career points gives him the ACC and Duke men's record, and Williams holds the school's career blocked shots record with 391-both are considered contenders for National Player of the Year.

But the depth of the class runs deeper. Dockery, who has been called the consummate teammate by his fellow Blue Devils, is tied for fifth in the ACC in steals, averaging 1.89 steals per game. And no one will forget his long-shot buzzer-beater against Virginia Tech anytime soon.

"We lost tonight, but this season is nowhere near over, I can assure you of that," Melchionni, one of the team's emotional leaders, said to the fans in the postgame ceremony.

And even though the fans were sad to see the seniors lose to the Tar Heels, it seemed they were more upset by the sheer fact that it was their final home game.

Saturday's was the last game the seniors would play together in Cameron, and they-along with their fans-hope it will be their last loss as Duke teammates.


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