Ex-Largo High star scores 21 in Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins' final game.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2000
CHARLOTTE -- Florida State senior guard Ron Hale wanted only to forget his dismal shooting performance in the Seminoles' regular-season finale and move forward.
He did, and for a change, so did the Seminoles.
The former Largo High star scored a game-high 21 points, including a crucial three-pointer and the clinching free throws, as the No. 7-seeded Seminoles eked out a 63-62 win against No. 8-seeded Georgia Tech in Thursday's opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
As Hale and the Seminoles (12-16) move on to face No. 2-seeded and No. 20-ranked Maryland at 2 p.m. today in the quarterfinals, Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins moves on into unemployment.
Cremins, third in the pantheon of ACC coaches with 354 league wins in his 19 seasons, has been under intense pressure, some of it self-imposed, to return the Yellow Jackets to national prominence. He announced his resignation Feb. 18, effective at the end of the season.
He received a standing ovation from the Charlotte Coliseum crowd and, after a brief television interview, sprinted from the court for what could be the last time.
"I'm relieved," he said, smiling and completely composed. "This thing has been overwhelming. I can't thank everybody enough for how kind they've been. It's been incredible, absolutely incredible. Although my record has not been good in the ACC the last three years, everybody has made me feel like I'm going out a winner."
He might have added one more win were it not for Hale.
After a sloppy first half in which neither team shot better than 34 percent, FSU gradually increased its halftime lead of 25-23 to as much as 46-37 midway through the second half.
The Yellow Jackets (13-17) rallied and eventually cut the deficit to 53-52 on a dunk by junior center Alvin Jones, a former Lakeland Kathleen standout, with 3:26 left that brought the capacity crowd to its feet in anticipation of a win and anther day for the affable, popular Cremins.
"We were certainly concerned coming into today's game with the emotional high that the Georgia Tech team could be on and the state of the crowd and everybody else pulling for Bobby to win," FSU coach Steve Robinson said.
But Hale, held scoreless for the first time in 67 games Sunday against visiting North Carolina State to spoil his Senior Day, answered with a three-pointer to push the lead to 56-52 with 3:03 to go.
"I tried to get that game out of my head, but somehow it kept coming out," he said. "I wanted to come out tonight and just play how I know I can play; just try to forget about that game, leave it in the past and do what I could to help my team win."
That was a lot.
He also had scored the Seminoles' five previous points.
"Hale made a huge three," Cremins said. "I thought we were going to contest that shot, but he got a great shot."
Georgia Tech senior forward Jason Collier, who mustered a season-low six points on 2 of 12 shooting in his team's 64-54 loss in Tallahassee a couple of weeks ago, hit a hook shot for two of his team-high 19 points to keep Tech close.
But FSU point guard Delvon Arrington followed with a pair of free throws, and forward Oliver Simmons tied up point guard Tony Akins, giving the ball to FSU on the alternate possession with 1:31 left.
Simmons, forward Antwuan Dixon and Hale then combined to hit 5 of 6 free throws. FSU finished the half hitting 16-of-19 from the line and made 22-of-30 for the game. The Yellow Jackets were 6-of-18 from the line.
"Talk about hanging on and just surviving was kind of what it was down the stretch," Robinson said. "But in order to do that, you've got to make some plays, and our guys made some plays.
"It wasn't the prettiest game, but at this time of the year when you get to the tournament, you're not looking for pretty, you're looking for the opportunity to win. ... Florida State history, it's not like we've set the world on fire in this ACC tournament. For us to get a win the last two seasons, it shows a lot of gain. ... Every year we can come to the tournament and have some success, that will just generate our own history in the tournament and in the league."