Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins got to relive his dream again.
The Yellow Jackets became only the fourth No. 6-seeded team to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, upsetting top-ranked North Carolina, 77-75, Sunday at Charlotte, N.C., behind James Forrest's 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Cremins was a guard for South Carolina during a double overtime loss to North Carolina State in the 1970 title game. He won the ACC as Georgia Tech's coach in 1985 and 1990.
"I told my first (ACC title) team and I'll tell my third team they have something I never had," Cremins said. "But they have given it back to me as a coach. I've played in an ACC championship game and lost and it was the low point of my life. These guys have a plaque, I hope they really cherish it."
It was the second time this season the Yellow Jackets (19-10) beat the nation's No. 1 team. On Jan. 9, they ended Duke's 23-game winning streak.
Virginia (1976), Duke (1980) and N.C. State (1987) were the other No. 6 seeded teams to win the ACC title.
North Carolina (28-4), which had won 11 straight, couldn't overcome the loss of guard Derrick Phelps, who sat out after bruising his tailbone in a semifinal game with Virginia. It was the fifth straight time the Tar Heels lost in the title game as the top seeded team.
"It's hard for me to say this now but that's the beauty of the ACC, that anything can happen at anytime," said North Carolina center Eric Montross, who scored 19 points and had a career-high 17 rebounds. "It proves that we have tremendous teams in this league and it's something to be proud of."
Now comes the NCAA tournament, where North Carolina, seeded No. 1 in the East Regional, will open against East Carolina. Georgia Tech, No. 4 in the West, plays Southern in the first round.
"We know we are a good team but we need to step it up again," Montross said.
Forrest, the tournament's MVP, became the first player to score at least 20 points in each game since Virginia's Wally Walker in 1976. Forrest scored 27 points against Duke in the quarterfinals and 26 against Clemson in the semis.
"In order for us to win and compete for the ACC championship I knew I had to step my game up and play as hard as I could," Forrest said. "I felt good coming into the tournament. I felt in order for us to make it to the NCAA tournament we had to come in and win at least one or two games.
"After we won the first one we said why couldn't we win the second one. After we won yesterday, why couldn't we win the championship. We just came out with the right attitude."
North Carolina used a 11-2 run to take a 48-43 lead with 15:21 left, but Georgia Tech countered with an 11-0 run to take the lead, 66-58, with six minutes remaining.
North Carolina made three three-pointers in the final 54 seconds to close to two, but the Yellow Jackets made 11 of 12 free throws in the final 4:08 to secure the victory.
"I thought we were going to break there as we've done several times this year," Cremins said.
Brian Reese led the Tar Heels with 24 points.
North Carolina led, 22-17, midway through the first half before the Yellow Jackets went on a 12-0 run led by Forrest. The Tar Heels missed eight straight shots and turned the ball over four times.
Forrest scored 10 of his team's 12 points during this time, including a left-handed follow that gave Georgia Tech a 29-22 lead.
The Tar Heels, who committed 12 first-half turnovers using three different point guards, pulled within two and trailed 41-37 at the half.
Drew Barry's 27 assists in the three games broke Bobby Hurley's tournament mark of 26, set last year.