GREENSBORO, N.C. - Jose Alvarado couldn't contain his emotions as the horn sounded, collapsing in disbelief as his Georgia Tech teammates mobbed each other near midcourt.
He quickly ran to the celebration that included coach Josh Pastner - still sporting that can't-miss-it clear face shield.
"Coach, you're a champion, man!" Alvarado yelled as he joined him for a postgame TV interview amid the balloons and confetti that had fallen from the rafters.
The Yellow Jackets have their first Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball title in nearly three decades after beating Florida State 80-75 in Saturday night's championship game. Just as importantly, they've secured an automatic NCAA tournament berth to end an 11-year drought.
"A lot of emotions: joy, happiness, everything," said Michael Devoe, the tournament MVP. "I mean, this goes down in history for us."
Devoe scored 20 points for the fourth-seeded Jackets (17-8), who shot 52% after halftime and repeatedly capitalized on mistakes by the Seminoles to win their first ACC tournament crown since 1993 and fourth overall.
ACC player of the year Moses Wright and Jordan Usher each had 11 of his 15 points after halftime for Tech, which got off to an 0-2 start this season with home losses to Georgia State and Mercer. The Jackets stood 9-8 after a loss at Clemson on a last-second shot Feb. 12 to find themselves facing bubble uncertainty.
But they haven't lost since. And there's no doubt about the NCAA tourney now after a remarkable climb, not after a strong finish against the 15th-ranked, second-seeded Seminoles (16-6).
"Our guys have just scrapped, fought, kicked, clawed - whatever they had to do to find a way to get wins this year," Pastner said. "And I'm just so darn proud of these young men."
Scottie Barnes had 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting for Florida State, which shot 56% but committed 25 turnovers that led to 31 points for the Jackets.
They came in all kinds of ways, from the Seminoles bobbling catches and having passes deflected to just throwing balls straight out of bounds. The 25 turnovers fell one shy of tying a tournament title-game record since the league began tracking the number in 1961, while Tech's 15 steals - five by Alvarado - were a title-game record since the league began charting it in 1976.
"We did turn the ball over a couple of times ourselves, what we call self-inflicted turnovers," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. "But for the most part, I think that they forced us into turnovers. ... I want to give them credit because they did an unbelievable job of just stripping us from the ball, and their defense created a mindset with us where we were unsure as to what we were supposed to do."
The Jackets avoided such trouble with just seven turnovers, and they were particularly steady down the stretch, making six of eight shots over the final eight minutes as well as 11 of 12 free throws in the final 90 seconds.
That included Alvarado knocking down a pair with nine seconds left after shaking off a hard fall, which had come right after Barnes' 3 pulled the Seminoles to 76-73.
The only thing that didn't go according to plan was the celebration. Alvarado stripped RayQuan Evans and fed Devoe for a layup with 0.6 second left, but the Jackets began spilling onto the court early to celebrate. That led to a technical foul and two free throws for Florida State, though the outcome was decided and Tech's party had begun.
Pastner kept that face shield in place, too, even as he stood atop a ladder - socially distanced from his team below - and cut down the final strands of net.
It was an unusual final pairing in a tournament altered by the coronavirus pandemic. No. 16 Virginia - the regular-season champion - and 10th-seeded Duke withdrew after positive COVID-19 tests within their programs. Duke was to play Florida State in a quarterfinal that was canceled, while Virginia was set for a semifinal against the Jackets before it was called off hours before the tip.
The title matchup marked the second finale without a North Carolina-based team, the other being Tech's win against Virginia in 1990.
Now the Jackets finally have another.