Villanova won the championship in Houston, but the real party Monday night was 1,550 miles away on the Main Line.

More than 4,200 students and alumni stormed out of the Pavilion the moment their Wildcats beat the No. 1-seeded University of North Carolina Tar Heels, 77 to 74, to win the school's second NCAA basketball championship.

After a tense game that brought out both cheers and nerves from the navy-and-white-decked crowd in Villanova's Pavilion, pandemonium erupted at the final buzzer.

Confetti flew. Water bottles were emptied. The fight song played.

"I burst into tears," said Alex Gera, a 2015 alumna, wiping her eyes moments before "We Are the Champions" began playing over the loudspeaker.

In a giddy mass, they made their way across campus. In front of one filled courtyard, music began blasting from a dorm and students stood on benches to cheer.

Screaming fireworks were shot into the sky. In one courtyard, smoke or fog billowed into the air. Students waved light sabers. Couples kissed. The shouts didn't stop.

In one dorm, the fire alarm went off. Students climbed trees. Everywhere, people said they were ready to party all night, like it was 1985.

Before long, Lancaster Avenue was closed to traffic as thousands took over the street, many of them dancing around a small fire in the middle of Lancaster Avenue.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," said senior Michael Killian, standing on a ledge overlooking a packed Lancaster Avenue, shirtless and covered in remnants of blue body paint.

The crowd was loud but peaceful past midnight as police officers in riot gear stood along the edges of the crowd. Some officers gave high-fives to passing fans.

Colleen Samoyll even walked from her nearby home with her 5-year-old son, Samson, to stand on the outskirts of the celebration.

"We're big Villanova fans," she said, and "we heard a lot of noise outside."

"This is just unreal. Its an honor," said freshman Peter Herlihey, running his hands over his head as he stood in a crowded courtyard after the game. His parents graduated in 1983 and 1982, just before the school's 1985 championship.

"They missed it," Herlihey said, "but I got it."

At times, the crowd inside the Pavilion was nervous. But then, as Villanova overcame a halftime deficit and began building a lead in the second half, the fans lost their minds.

Hands on their heads or arms in the air, students shrieked and jumped up and down. The Pavilion vibrated with deafening cheers and stomping feet.

After watching disappointing seasons for the last few years - last year, Villanova was beaten by North Carolina State in the second round - students were consumed by thoughts of basketball leading up to Monday's game. Students were confident but anxious for their team.

"There's nothing else you can talk about," said sophomore Jessica Eisemann.

The campus was dominated by basketball this week, students said, with some professors canceling classes on Monday and Tuesday and moving exams. Students had failed to study for tests; alumni were prepared to be late to work Tuesday morning.

"It's just honestly beautiful," sophomore Daniel Lin said of following the team's journey throughout the season.

Even former player and 2014 graduate Tony Chennault showed up at the Pavilion.

"I love it, man. This is a family environment," he said, calling the current players "my little brothers."

Chennault, now a documentary filmmaker, said he has been in touch with his former teammates throughout the tournament.

Some alumni showed up to the Pavilion. They reported hearing about watch parties all over the world, even in places as far-flung as Armenia and Micronesia.

Next for 'Nova Nation: a parade, which Mayor Kenney promised after the win.

lmccrystal@phillynews.com610-313-8116@LMcCrystal