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Area fan cheers UConn at Final 4

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Tim Lanigan’s road to the Final Four is a true Cinderella story.

The only thing that could make this weekend sweeter for the Watertown native is if he can sing along to “One Shining Moment,” with his beloved Connecticut Huskies when it’s all over Monday night.

Lanigan, a 2006 South Jefferson graduate, will be in the crowd at the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four games tonight and Monday at AT&T Stadium in North Texas, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Lanigan’s brother Brendan, who graduated from South Jefferson in 2003 and lives in downtown Dallas, won four free tickets to this weekend’s games in early February and invited Tim to join him.

“This is my first (Final Four) experience and without having my brother living here and having tickets, I would have had no real chance to attend a Final Four,” Lanigan said. “Then being a UConn fan and with UConn being in it, it’s a dream come true, check it off the bucket list kind of thing.”

Lanigan landed in Texas on Wednesday evening and has been immersed in the atmosphere since.

Lanigan said he saw CBS sideline reporter Lewis Johnson on his plane. At dinner Thursday night, he spotted several prominent men’s basketball coaches like Bill Self of Kansas and VCU’s Shaka Smart.

He also attended a taping of “The Conan Show,” at downtown Dallas’ Majestic Theatre, with Charles Barkley as one of the featured guests.

“Being the basketball nerd that I can sometimes be, seeing (Barkley) live was pretty cool,” Lanigan said.

“The games weren’t even for another 48 hours or so and we’ve already had a nice opportunity to see what this whole weekend is like,” he added.

Brendan Lanigan is a Syracuse University alum and fan, as are his two friends with whom he shared the other free tickets.

Tim Lanigan, who promised not to taunt his SU companions, said members of his extended family have allegiances to several former Big East schools like Georgetown, Boston College, Villanova, and of course, SU and UConn.

Lanigan said his fanhood started when his uncle and aunt, who live in Connecticut, sent him a pair of UConn shorts for Christmas. Lanigan was four or five years old at the time, he said, and was fascinated by the team’s logo.

“I got hooked on UConn then because the Huskie looked pretty awesome,” Lanigan said. “So I guess that’s OK. No ‘bandwagoning’ or anything in my later years. I just made a choice as a toddler and stuck with it.”

Tonight will mark the fourth Huskies game Lanigan has watched live this season. He attended two regular season home games and went to the team’s second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Saint Joseph’s in Buffalo.

Lanigan said this year’s UConn team, a No. 7 seed, reminds him of the 2011 squad that made an unexpected run to capture the national championship behind the superb play of Kemba Walker.

“They’re just being led by Shabazz Napier right now, as they were led by Kemba Walker, so you never know. You never know. But it’s exciting,” Lanigan said.

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