GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Nothing seems to be stopping Randolph Childress at the Greensboro Coliseum these days. Not Duke in Friday's ACC tournament quarterfinal. Not Virginia yesterday in the semifinals.
Not even a dislocation of the pinky on his shooting hand.
Childress suffered the injury with a little less than four minutes left in the first half and the Cavaliers on their way to building a 10-point lead. But the Wake Forest senior guard made Virginia share in his pain.
"The pain was bad, but it wasn't as bad as when I hurt my shoulder last year," Childress said later, after his 30 points and seven assists led the top-seeded, seventh-ranked Demon Deacons to a 77-68 victory and a place in today's final against second-seeded North Carolina. "I would have played even if it was broken."
X-rays revealed there was no fracture, but they might have showed the ice that runs through Childress' veins. Though he wasn't as unstoppable as in his 40-point performance against the Blue Devils, he was his unflappable self.
So was his teammate, center Tim Duncan. While Childress scored 21 of his points in the second half, it was Duncan's dominance inside that enabled Wake Forest (23-5) to overcome its 36-28 halftime deficit. The Demon Deacons pulled away down the stretch against the once-again cold-shooting Cavaliers, who after shooting 50 percent in the first half made only 10 of 42 shots in the second half.
"We wanted to take it inside and establish Timmy Duncan and build up the fouls on Virginia," said Wake Forest coach Dave Odom, whose Demon Deacons won their ninth straight game to advance to the school's first ACC tournament final since 1978. "We wanted to get it inside on the dribble with Childress or the pass with Timmy."
They accomplished both. After a sluggish first half in which Duncan had six points, six rebounds and only one blocked shot, the 6-foot-11 sophomore finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. Junior Burrough, who had a career-high 36 against Georgia Tech on Friday, led Virginia (22-8) with 31 points and 11 rebounds.
With the scored tied at 61, the Demon Deacons went on a 12-2 run that featured a 25-foot jumper by Childress, a three-point play by Duncan and a pair of free throws by Childress after Burrough was called for an offensive foul. The Cavaliers closed to within five, 73-68, but Childress hit two free throws with 48.2 seconds left to seal the win.
"We're disappointed, obviously, with losing but we lost to a very good basketball team," said Virginia coach Jeff Jones, whose 11th-ranked Cavaliers lost for the third straight time this year to the Demon Deacons. "I think it ultimately came down to discipline, and the bottom line was that they were more disciplined. They did what they needed to do every time down. They stuck with their bread and butter."
Said Burrough, "Wake Forest did a great job in the second half going inside and establishing themselves as a team that wanted to win an ACC championship."
A victory over North Carolina -- Wake Forest upset the then top-ranked Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Feb. 28 -- would give the Demon Deacons their first ACC tournament championship since the guard-center combination of Len Chappell and a fellow named Billy Packer led them to back-to-back titles in 1961 and 1962.
"Our goal is to come out tomorrow and win it," said Childress. "We're not going to use fatigue as an excuse."
Or something as trivial as a dislocated finger.