Magic runs out for Tech

ATLANTA - If a single game can serve a as a symbol for Georgia Tech's 2008-09 men's basketball season, perhaps it is the ACC tournament quarterfinal game against Florida State.

As they've done so many times this season, the Yellow Jackets put themselves in position to win after Zachery Peacock's jumper gave them a one-point lead with 29 seconds remaining.

But as has also been a custom, their opponent found an answer.

In this case, the No. 22 Seminoles got a three-point play by Derwin Kitchen with seven seconds left and Iman Shumpert's potential game-tying shot was off the mark, dooming Tech to yet another close loss - 64-62 before 26,352 on Friday at the Georgia Dome.

It was the Jackets' ninth loss by five points or fewer - the fourth that came down to the last possession of the game - and ended a frustrating season at 12-19.

"The guys played extremely hard all year and put themselves in position to win," Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "Unfortunately for us this year, more people made plays than we would've like to have happened.

"It's just one of those seasons that's tough to explain, but at the same time, you do recognize that these guys have a lot of character to continue to battle and play hard. They just gave a great effort every day."

In this case, it was Kitchen who made the play to send Florida State (24-8) into this afternoon's 1:30 p.m. semifinal against No. 1 North Carolina, a 79-76 winner over Virginia Tech earlier Friday.

The play was an exchange of clutch moments for two players who had not been that big a factor most of the day.

It was Toney Douglas, with his team-high 25 points, who helped Florida State roll out to an early lead that the Seminoles kept most of the game.

However, Tech senior Lewis Clinch answered with 25 points of his own - including 7 of 18 shooting from 3-point range - and helped the Jackets stay in what turned out to be his Tech finale.

"I just didn't want to lose," said Clinch, who averaged 25.1 points over his last seven games as a Jacket, including a career-high 32 in Tech's 86-81 upset of No. 17 Clemson in Thursday's opening round. "I was willing to do whatever it took for my team. They did a great job getting me opportunities."

But after Florida State broke a 15-15 tie with 8 minutes left in the first half, it seemed like the Jackets were climbing a mountain, only to get knocked down every time they neared the summit.

Though they never trailed by more than 10 points, every time they managed to pull to within one or two possessions, Douglas and the Seminoles would answer with a run.

Five times Tech pulled to within three points, thanks in no small part to Clinch. He scored 15 of Tech's 20 points over a 7:42 stretch of the second half that ended with his final career points, a 3-pointer that cut Florida State's lead to 59-56 with 4:34 to play.

After failing the previous four times to pull any closer - including making a defensive stop on three of those opportunities - the Jackets finally broke through when a jumper by Tech's other main senior, Alade Aminu, made the score 59-58 with 4:06 left.

And when Peacock lofted a fadeaway jumper from the baseline with 29 seconds left, Tech had its first lead since the game's opening basket at 62-61.

Florida State got the ball in the frontcourt knowing the Jackets would likely try to make someone other than Douglas beat them.

So, after calling for a timeout with 9.9 seconds left, Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton came up with another option.

"In reality, that was an out-of-bounds play with four different options," Hamilton said. "We have different looks, and we felt like one would be available."

That option turned out to be Kitchen, who swooped along the baseline and to the basket for a layup and a foul, which he converted into a three-point play with 7.2 seconds left to vault Florida State back in front 64-62.

Tech had one last chance as Shumpert - who hit a shot in the waning seconds of Tech's upset of then-No. 1 Wake Forest in January - sped up the court, lost possession and regained it at the foul line.

But the freshman's try hit off the back iron and fell out, allowing the Seminoles to escape with the win.

It was another frustrating chapter of Tech's season.

"It was a tough one," said Tech forward and former Norcross star Gani Lawal, who closed out a fine sophomore season with another strong game by scoring 11 points and pulling down seven rebounds. "It's happened too many times when we've been on the brink of winning. We tripped up and couldn't put it away."

Shumpert joined Clinch and Lawal in double figures with 11 points, while Solomon Alabi was Florida State's only other player in double figures with 14 points.