The hometown kid came back and felled Goliath. He also killed, from a purely Atlanta perspective, the 2009 ACC tournament.
One day after Toney Douglas put Georgia Tech out of its misery, the pride of Jonesboro unhorsed regal North Carolina, thereby guaranteeing Sunday’s championship game will be staged in an unpacked Georgia Dome. He scored 27 points as Florida State ousted the bluebloods of Tobacco Road, and not 10 seconds had elapsed after Danny Green’s last-gasp three-pointer clanked before Tar Heel Nation was scrambling to dump its tickets at an event where supply already trumped demand.
Put Carolina in the ACC final against anybody and you’ve got an event. Pit Carolina against Duke and you’ve got Dickie V. going absolutely crazy on ESPN. Substitute the football school from Tallahassee for the Baby Blue bastion of Tobacco Road, and it’s just not the same. Not that Douglas cares one whit about attendance, or the lack thereof.
“This is the very best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said Saturday, and indeed his smile was enough to light a city. His home city, as fate would have it.
“I can’t even count how many people [from Jonesboro] were here,” he said. “My phone’s been ringing. I’m sure it’s ringing now.”
Doubtless his brother Harry was already on the horn. What could be more fitting than one Jonesboro guy having a big weekend in an arena where his older sibling just had a series of sublime Sundays?
Five months and two days before Toney Douglas torched the Tar Heels, a quick-thinking rookie named Harry Douglas returned a squib kickoff to the Atlanta 44, positioning the Falcons for the Matt Ryan throw and the Michael Jenkins catch and the Jason Elam field goal that would change the perception of an entire franchise. The Falcons had fallen behind the Bears with 11 seconds to play, and still they won.
“They’re both wonderful,” Toney Douglas said, comparing the moments. (For the record, he watched the Chicago game on TV.) “We’ve been winning in the Georgia Dome, and they had a successful year here.”
It’s not often another player usurps a floor graced by Tyler Hansbrough, but Douglas did the deed. He kept the Seminoles in it all game with his quick-fire one-handers, and he made the free throws that gave them a lasting lead with 47.2 seconds remaining, and his belly-to-belly defense on Wayne Ellington induced the elegant shooter to cast an uncommon brick at the end.
A senior, Douglas stands second to Hansbrough among conference scorers and was named the league’s top defensive player. Such a parlay usually results in being named player of the year, but given the heavy Carolina media influence the award went to the Heels’ Ty Lawson, who didn’t play in this event. But Douglas could wind up the ACC tournament MVP in his hometown, and that would be better still.
Douglas has spent time at schools in both the ACC and SEC – he played his freshman season at Auburn – and serves as just another reminder of the sorry state of college hoops in these environs. Georgia finished 12-20, Tech 12-19. Either could have used Douglas. Instead he’s playing for a conference title for an out-of-state school. Typical.
But that topic wasn’t uppermost in Douglas’ mind, either. He was concerned about getting his rest and fielding all those calls, and he had to hook up with Harry. “We talk every day,” he said. “He tells me what I did well and what I did wrong.”
What did Toney Douglas do wrong Saturday? On the floor, absolutely nothing. For the local economy, only everything.