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March Madness Memories: 'I dreamed about playing in the ACC Tournament'


All these years later, they still remember the shots that went in, the ones that didn’t and all the rest of the magic that comes with March Madness and the Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Tournament. And like the hometown players who shared their favorite ACC Tournament memories, we can’t wait for the games to begin.

This year, the ACC Women’s Tournament is scheduled for March 5-8 in the Greensboro Coliseum. But from 1983 to 1991, Fayetteville was home to the event, which took place in the old Cumberland County Memorial Arena. It was in the 1986 tournament semifinals that Wake Forest junior Amy Privette hit an 18-foot jump shot with a second left to give her team a 72-71 upset victory over Duke.

Amy Privette Perko is now executive director of the NCAA’s Knight Commission, lives in Fayetteville, and has two daughters who share their mother’s love of athletics. Perko would go on to be named to the Wake Forest Hall of Fame in 2000, but that game in 1986 will stay with her forever.

As a kid, I always dreamed about playing in the ACC Tourney, so to play in the tourney and hit a big shot for our program was an amazing experience,” Perko said. “I also remember a true act of sportsmanship after the excitement subsided when Duke’s coach Debbie Leonard congratulated me and told me that it was a moment I would never forget. She was right.

The annual Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament returns to the Greensboro Coliseum March 10-14. The tournament rotates venues, but Greensboro has hosted the event 27 times and has produced many unforgettable moments. But for Dr. Joe Quigg, N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum in 1957 was the site of his favorite memory of the tournament. Quigg, now a retired dentist, would go on that year to sink two free throws with six seconds in the national championship game to seal the win for his North Carolina Tar Heels, who finished 32-0.

But if not for a frantic win over nemesis Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament semifinals, the Tar Heels wouldn’t have had a shot at that national title. Back then, only the winner of the conference tournament earned the bid to the NCAA Tournament. In 1956, in fact, the Tar Heels had finished tied for first in the regular season but saw their season end in a loss to Wake in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.

They were determined not to let that happen again in 1957.

We were down by a point with a minute remaining and the ball went into Rosenbluth,” Quigg recalls of teammate and UNC leading scorer Lennie Rosenbluth. “The ball went up, a hook shot, and he collided with a Wake player.”

The shot went in, the Wake player was called for the foul and UNC went on to win, 61-59.

David Hedgecoe was an avid fan of the ACC Tournament while growing up in Fayetteville, long before he crafted his own indelible memory in the 1990 edition of the event.

Growing up, it was just the excitement of the tourney and pulling for my favorite team, UNC,” said Hedgecoe, a Fayetteville dentist.  But I knew a lot about every team and most of the players.  And the Friday games of the tourney were always kind of different and special in their own way.  And it usually interrupted school around noon always in a good way.  TVs somehow found their way into classrooms and it was just plain fun.  I dreamed about playing in the ACC tourney one day.

That time came during his freshman year at Wake Forest. He had already earned a spot on the baseball team, but he had decided to walk onto the basketball team, hoping just to help in practice for a team depleted by injuries. But when the ACC Tournament rolled around, he found himself caught up in the excitement in a big way.

There he was, on the same court as players such as Duke’s Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner, Georgia Tech’s Kenny Anderson, UNC’s Hubert Davis and Rick Fox, and N.C. State’s Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe. 

     The atmosphere was electric,” Hedgecoe remembered.  Having all the fans of the different teams, the colors, the smell, the environment (the new Charlotte Coliseum), the cheers from the different sections of the coliseum.  We played the ACC regular season champs and a great Clemson team of Dale Davis, Marion Cash, Elden Campbell, and Fayetteville's own Colby Brown. Being there is something that you can't describe.  It's one of those things that has a palpable atmosphere and a true excitement in the air!   

Midway into the first half of the first round against Clemson, Wake’s starting guard Derrick McQueen went down and was wheeled away on a stretcher with what turned out to be a mild concussion. Coach Dave Odom would eventually look to the end of the bench and put Hedgecoe in the game.

I ended up getting some decent minutes,” Hedgecoe said.  I scored right before halftime that cut down Clemson's lead and heard a memorable cheer as the buzzer went off.  We lost the game, but even the remainder of the tournament was exciting.

As a bonus, a cute junior high school student, Claire Cheatwood, was watching that game in a Fayetteville classroom. She and David would later marry and now have three sports-minded sons.

“So, I guess the ACC tourney went beyond basketball in helping me impress my future wife,” Hedgecoe said.

Robert Brickey was a standout at E.E. Smith High School who helped the Golden Bulls reach the 4-A state title game in 1985. He went on to play for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, where he played in three Final Fours and served as a team captain in 1990. He played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association before eventually returning home to Fayetteville, where he works as a financial consultant.

Of his four ACC Tournaments, the one in 1988 was particularly satisfying. He was named to the all-tournament first team that year.

Duke finished third in the regular season heading into the tournament in Greensboro,” he said. We faced and defeated sixth-seeded Virginia, second-seeded N.C. State and, ultimately, number one-seeded UNC to win the title!