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ACC Tournament A Sudden Scare North Carolina fell in the final, but Derrick Phelps's fall in the semis was the one that really hurt

74-56 victory over Virginia in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.
The first came early in the second half. With the top-seeded Tar
Heels leading by four, high winds and heavy snow knocked out the
power at Charlotte (N.C.) Coliseum, delaying the game for 28 minutes
before an emergency generator finally kicked in. After play resumed,
Carolina went on a 14-2 run that sealed its victory. However, with
1:52 left, play was stopped again. This delay was far more
On a breakaway, point guard Derrick Phelps, the Tar Heels' spark
plug, had been undercut by Cavalier freshman Jason Williford; it was
a glancing blow that caused Phelps to land on his left hip. He lay on
the court for several minutes, complaining of numbness in his thighs
and lower back. Phelps was placed on a stretcher and taken for
X-rays, which showed no fracture. He had suffered a badly bruised
tailbone and would be unable to play the next day, in the conference
championship game against Georgia Tech.
Phelps's fall conjured up disconcerting images of 1984, when North
Carolina playmaker Kenny Smith suffered a broken wrist late in the
season that sidelined him for four weeks and threw the Heels, then
No. 1, out of sync for the NCAA tournament. A 6 ft. 3 in. junior from
East Elmhurst, N.Y., Phelps had steadily improved through the season,
becoming a Smith-like distributor of the ball and a tenacious
defender. ''He's gotten us a lot of easy baskets by forcing turnovers
or bad shots by the opposition,'' said coach Dean Smith.
Henrik Rodl, a 6 ft. 8 in. senior from Heusenstamm, Germany, got
the call to replace Phelps against the Yellowjackets. He shook off a
slow start and played 33 solid minutes, handing out six assists. But
since Rodl wasn't quick enough to stay with Tech's speedy point guard
Travis Best, that assignment fell to 6 ft. 2 in. marksman Donald
Williams. The task took a toll on Williams, who struggled with his
shot down the stretch as his legs grew rubbery. ''At the end I was
worn out,'' Williams said.
Best's penetration disrupted the Tar Heels, but thanks largely to
center Eric Montross, who had 19 points and 17 rebounds, Carolina was
able to stay within striking range. With the Heels trailing 74-66
with 5:50 left, forward Brian Reese drilled back-to-back treys on his
way to a season-high 24 points. But the Heels were still behind by
two with 38 seconds left, and the Yellowjackets nailed 10 of their
last 11 free throws down the stretch to win 77-75.
Reese, who had scored 16 in North Carolina's 102-66 blowout of
Maryland in the first round and another 16 against Virginia, and
Montross were named to the all-tournament team. The loss to Georgia
Tech dropped the Tar Heels from No. 1 to No. 4 in the AP poll, but
they were still awarded the No. 1 seed in the NCAA East Regional. So
what if they were No. 4? The definitive poll would be taken three
weeks later in New Orleans.