Theres a case to be argued that Pete Brennan made the most important shot in ACC basketball history.
The former North Carolina star died from cancer in Chapel Hill Friday at the age of 75, but his legacy may last as long as ACC teams contend for basketball national championships.
A street-tough, affable 6-foot-5 forward from Brooklyn, it was Brennan and not teammate Len Rosenbluth, who hit the first crucial shot in the 1957 Final Four in Kansas City.
Against Michigan State in the national semifinals, Carolinas undefeated season seemed certain to end at 30-0.
The Spartans led 58-56 with eight seconds left and had all-American Jumpin Johnny Green at the free-throw with a one-and-one free-throw opportunity.
When Green missed his first attempt, Brennan grabbed the rebound, dribbled past half-court and hit a long jump shot that sent the game into the first of three overtime periods.
The Tar Heels eventually escaped 74-70.
Before fouling out, Brennan finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Rosenbluth had 29 points and wing guard Bobby Cunningham had one of his best games with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
The following night, UNC defeated Kansas with Wilt Chamberlain 54-53 in three more overtimes.
The 32-0 finish, the NCAA title and the drama sent basketball enthusiasm in the state zooming. What already had become a regional fancy ignited by Everett Cases early N.C. State teams almost instantly became an addiction.
In quick order, Wake Forest and Duke built national contenders that eventually made the state ground zero for college hoops.
That clutch shot by Brennan against Michigan State became a foundation of the ACCs success.
A few years ago, Brennan reflected on that night and that season.
God, it was fun, he said. What memories weve had. But when it was all happening, I dont think any of us on that team had any idea of what would follow in the ACC.