ATLANTA - Jordan DeMercy won a high school state championship with Norcross two years ago. Today, he hopes to claim something even bigger - an ACC title.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore didn't score a single point in Florida State's upset of No. 1-ranked North Carolina, but that doesn't mean he didn't make a contribution.
DeMercy, a key defensive stopper, had a part in one of the biggest plays of the 73-70 victory Saturday in the ACC Tournament semifinals at the Georgia Dome.
FSU's Derwin Kitchen knocked the ball out of Tyler Hansbrough's grasp with less than 30 seconds left and DeMercy got it, helping to secure the victory that put the Seminoles in the ACC title game for the first time.
"This is the greatest feeling in the world right now," DeMercy said.
No. 22-ranked FSU (25-8) is already assured of a NCAA berth, but the Seminoles want to go off in a victory over No. 8 Duke (27-6). A lot of DeMercy's family and friends are sure to be on hand for the 1 p.m. game.
"It was my dream to get to play for the championship as soon as I saw the schedule with the ACC Tournament here," DeMercy said. "Now it is really happening."
Toney Douglas, who is from Jonesboro and has a brother who plays for the Atlanta Falcons in the same Georgia Dome, made sure that DeMercy's dream was realized.
"They made the NFL playoffs and we're in the ACC championship," said the Florida State star, whose brother Harry was in the crowd. "I was excited for him and I know he's excited for me. This place has been good to both of us."
Douglas scored 27 and put FSU ahead on a pair of free throws with 47.2 seconds left. The loss snapped a seven-game ACC Tournament winning streak by North Carolina and ended a run of 10 straight victories by the Tar Heels over FSU.
North Carolina (28-4) won at Tallahassee in January on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Ty Lawson, who had 20 points, a career-high nine rebounds and four assists. But the ACC player of the year couldn't play against the Seminoles this time because of a jammed big toe and FSU took advantage of the point guard's absence.
After Douglas, who lost out to Lawson for ACC player of the year, made his two foul shots, Kitchen made two more with 15.7 seconds left and UNC missed two 3-point shots in the closing seconds.
"We had been waiting for a chance to get back at them," Kitchen said. "I can't really tell you just how good this feels. We beat the No. 1 team and now we get to play for the ACC championship."
Kitchen, a junior college transfer, had 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. The biggest of the steals came as he teamed with DeMercy to fleece Hansbrough.
Hansbrough had 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Wayne Ellington scored 24. But they couldn't do it alone.
Bobby Frasor, filling in for Lawson at point guard, had only two points and the Tar Heels shot just 37.3 percent. Danny Green was 1-for-12, missing five 3-point attempts.
"We didn't play up to our standards," Frasor said. "We didn't play the way we want to play. We didn't get contributions from everyone."
"Everybody had to raise their game to another level and everyone had to step up their leadership a little bit," said Green, stopping before uttering the obvious. Against FSU, the Tar Heels didn't.
It was a different story for the Seminoles, who lost to UNC in their only other trip to the ACC semifinals in 1992 - their first season in the conference. FSU shot 66.7 percent in the second half, going 6-for-11 from behind the 3-point arc. Douglas had three 3-pointers in the game, but so did freshman reserve Deividas Dulkys.
The Seminoles also used their size inside to advantage winning the rebound battle and blocking six shots.
Hansbrough needed 25 points to break former Duke guard J.J. Redick's ACC record for career points, so he'll have to do in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He did set the UNC record for career rebounds, passing Sam Perkins.
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams has taken five teams to the NCAA Final Four that didn't win conference championships. After the loss to FSU, he'll have to try to do it again - hopefully with a healthy Lawson.
"There's no tomorrow now," Williams said. "The next time you feel this way at the end of a game, you're done (for the season)."
Duke 67, Maryland 61
ATLANTA - Duke won't get another shot at rival North Carolina, but that hardly matters.
The Blue Devils will play in the ACC championship game today and that is all that really matters.
"Sure we would have liked another game with North Carolina, but sometimes you have to watch out for what you are hoping," Duke's Jon Scheyer said.
The No. 1-ranked Tar Heels beat Duke twice during the regular season. The Blue Devils own two victories over Florida State, which upset North Carolina in the first semifinal game Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
No. 8-ranked Duke avoided a second upset, defeating Maryland 67-61 as Scheyer scored 22 points, Kyle Singler had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Nolan Smith showed he is fully recovered from the concussion that caused him to miss the last three games of the regular season.
"I guess it can be hard to beat a good team like Florida State three times," Singler said. "So we won't think of it that way."
Other than senior reserves Greg Paulus and David McClure, the Blue Devils haven't made it to an ACC title game. Duke lost in the semifinals last season and the quarterfinals the year before.
"We're in the position we came here for," Scheyer said. "Now we have to get the job done."
The return of Smith gives the Blue Devils (27-6) a boost. He was knocked out by a Dave Neal pick on Feb. 25 at Maryland, but came back to help knock the Terps out of the ACC Tournament.
"It was great to be back out there and contribute to a big win like this," Smith said.
The sophomore played 30 minutes on Saturday, getting 10 points, three assists and two steals. He had no turnovers and spent some time on the court with freshman Elliott Williams, who replaced him in the starting lineup during the season.
"I'm really astounded at how well Nolan has played these two games," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He's only practiced just a little bit and even his conditioning his great. He was huge for us."
Smith and Williams will have their hands full trying to defend FSU's high-scoring Toney Douglas in the championship game.
"He's a great player," Smith said of Douglas. "It will be our job to try to contain him a little. You can't stop him completely."
Smith and Williams did a good job on Maryland standout Greivis Vasquez. The guard from Venezuela had to take 17 shots to get 14 points.
"It feels bad to lose, but I'm proud of my team," Vasquez said. "We kept fighting."
Eric Hayes kept the seventh-seeded Terps (20-13) in the game, missing just four shots while scoring 20 points. But his third straight strong performance off the bench wasn't enough against Duke, which built a 13-point lead with 5:35 to play thanks to a 9-0 run.
Scheyer, who has shot better since moving to point guard, started the run with a 3-pointer. "I feel more confident and I'm taking better shots," he said.
The Blue Devils won despite shooting just 36.4 percent as a team. Leading-scorer Gerald Henderson was 3-for-14 from the floor and had only eight points.
Duke will need more from Henderson against FSU in the championship matchup. He had 25 and 21 in the two regular-season meetings.
"We could have easily lost either," Singler said. "They are good team, with a lot of size inside and a great guard in Douglas. We definitely have to stop him and that won't be easy."
Duke beat FSU 84-81 at home on March 3 after winning in Tallahassee 66-58 on Jan. 10. Douglas scored 27 points in the second game and 18 in the first.
"We just played Florida State, so we know how good of a team they are," Scheyer said. "Obviously, they have [Solomon] Alabi inside who can change a lot of shots. It's a different game where you need to know when to attack and he smart because they do have a lot of shot blockers. . . . We need to be smart and aggressive."