by Mike Potter
GREENSBORO COLISEUM It's the second edition of "Brunch at the ACC," with scrappy No. 5 seed Wake Forest taking on No. 4 seed Georgia Tech in an 11 a.m. quarterfinal in front of thousands of enthusiastic middle-schoolers.
Tech, which has nailed down a spot in the NCAA Tournament, is the nominal favorite after a 22-8 regular season and a 72-66 win over the Deacons on Jan. 14 in Atlanta.
Just how close the Deacons of Coach Mike Petersen (pictured) are to an NCAA bid at this spot is anyone's guess. A win today would certainly strengthen the case, while a miracle run through the tournament would make it certain.
Unfortunately for the Deacons that won't happen today, as Georgia Tech recovers from an horrific start to win 52-45.
For nearly the first 12 minutes of the game there might as well not have be a basket at the Jackets' end except when it's time to go to the free-throw line.
Wake leads 19-7 before Tech hits its first field goal of the day on an Alex Montgomery jumper from the left baseline at 8:01.
The Deacons stretch their biggest lead to 25-9 on a Brittany Waters layup with 4:13 left in the half, but Tech slices the margin to 52-45 at halftime.
Wake leads by as much as 12 again early in the second half before Tech begins its long comeback.
The Jackets finally lead for the first time since 2-2 with 1:05 left, when Brigitte Ardossi's jumper makes it 45-43. And they control the final minute. Chelsea Regins hits a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left for a four-point lead.
Secily Ray responds with a field goal nine seconds later for Wake. But Montgomery hits a free-throw to make it 48-45, and then the Deacons can't get off a shot. Deja Foster hits a free throw for the Jackets with two seconds left, and Ardossi rebounds the second and responds with a three-point play.
Ardossi leads Tech with 23 points, while Foster adds seven points with 10 rebounds.
Ray has 11 points and Brooke Thomas 10 for Wake.
Tech shoots just 28.9 percent to Wake's 32.7, but hits 25 of 34 free throws to the Deacons' 7-for-12. Wake wins the rebound battle 38-35, but commits 16 turnovers to the Jackets' 13.
They said it:
Wake coach Mike Petersen: "There is no precedent for a team that's won eight games in this competition in the ACC to not go (to the NCAA.) We are the fifth-place team in the second-ranked RPI conference in the country. Check the fifth-ranked team from the third-ranked RPI conference and the fifth-place team in the fourth-place conference. It's St. John's and Vanderbilt. We have as many top 50 wins as either of those teams, and we have one less outside the top than St. John's does. Nobody is worried about them making it. These kids can't be penalized because Wake has not been in the tournament for so many years. ... We won eight games against ACC opponents and we won 3 top 50 games in the last 6 weeks. We have no losses outside of the top 100. What do you think the boys on ESPN would say about that if it was on College GameDay?"
Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph: "Well first of all I want to give a lot of credit to Wake Forest. I thought they came out and jumped all over us and we played with a lot of poise and confidence. I definitely think they are a NCAA Tournament team. I think they have proven that all year long. I'm very proud of my team. I mean, we look back over the course of the last year and the games that we have won, the toughness that we have shown, I don't think I have coached a team that showed more character than they showed today. ... I'm proud of this team - 23 wins. The most ever in the history of our program. ."
Waters: "We just lost our poise, and we kept attacking the press and just needed to be aggressive and that is basically it. (In the second half) nothing was different and nothing changed."
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Walthour's steal and three-point play to cut Wake's lead to 40-37 with 8:14 left.
Ga. Tech leads 33-23.
Wake: Lost 1.
Ga. Tech: Won 1.
Georgia Tech vs. Duke-, Saturday, 1 p.m.