ATLANTA (Mar.10, AP) – No. 6 North Carolina knocked off the hometown favorite to put itself in a familiar position: the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
| North Carolina’s Joseph Forte (40) looks to pass as Georgia Tech’s Robert Brooks, left, applies pressure during the first half of an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals game Saturday, March 10, 2001, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.|
(AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Joseph Forte ignored foul trouble to score 27 points andthe Tar Heels survived a scare from feisty Georgia Tech for a 70-63semifinal victory Saturday.
Forte, who also had 12 rebounds, hit two key free throws with 33.6 seconds remaining and added a finishing layup at the buzzer to put the Tar Heels (25-5) into the final against the winner of the other semifinal between No. 3 Duke and No. 11 Maryland.
The Yellow Jackets (17-12) hung tough despite a horrible stretch in which they missed 17 shots in a row, encompassing the final eight minutes of the first half and the first 2 1/2 minutes after the break.
During that time, in which Tech also made six turnovers, the Tar Heels turned a 23-16 deficit into a 35-25 lead.
North Carolina is the winningest team in ACC tournament history with 15 championships. This will be their 27th appearance in the final in the 48-year history of the event.
The Tar Heels were on the verge of turning the game into a rout when Jason Capel hit a free throw with 16 minutes remaining for a 43-30 lead.
But Georgia Tech, which defeated No. 12 Virginia in the quarterfinals, suddenly found its range. Shaun Fein, who led his team with 18 points, hit back-to-back 3s, T.J. Vines tied the score at 53 with a three-point play and Robert Brooks put Tech ahead for the final time, 55-53, on a lay-in with 7:02 left.
At that point, North Carolina seemed on the ropes, with many of the Duke and Maryland fans at the Georgia Dome waiving gold pompoms in support of the underdog.
| Georgia Tech’s Darryl LaBarrie throws over the defense of Brian Morrison (3) during the first half of an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals game, Saturday, March 10, 2001, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.|
(AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Forte picked up his fourth foul with more than 11 minutesremaining, but coach Matt Doherty left his star on the court.
Forte avoided his fifth foul and made most of the key baskets down the stretch – 3-pointer than sneaked over the rim, a 15-foot jumper with about two minutes left, and those two free throws in the final minute after Fein hit a 3-pointer to bring Tech within 64-63.
Tech still had a chance to tie, but Tony Akins misread Fein and threw the ball away before the Yellow Jackets could attempt a shot.
Against a desperate press, Julius Peppers got loose at the other end for the clinching dunk.
Brendan Haywood scored 13 points for the Tar Heels and did a stellar defensive job on Tech’s star center Alvin Jones.
After scoring 20 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking six shots in the quarterfinals, Jones was held to seven points on 3-of-16 shooting. He did haul down 16 rebounds and block three shots.