PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Sometimes life is a fairy tale, even when it's a college basketball game.
Quinn Cook directed No. 5 Duke on its run to the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis. But holding the MVP trophy Saturday night isn't what made this so special for him. It's what this run of three games meant to his mother.
"His dad and I eloped here 25 years ago," Janet Cook said. "This is like a fairy tale."
It gets better.
She was supposed to head back to work Saturday afternoon, but she stuck around for the championship game to surprise her son.
"It was great," Cook said. "My mom was supposed to go back to work. But she stayed for the game. I just wanted to play well for my team."
The sophomore guard scored 11 of his 15 points in the final 7:46, including the Blue Devils' last eight of the game, and they beat No. 2 Louisville 76-71 for the title.
"Respect is not something you can give. It's earned," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I think since the Georgia State game, Quinn has earned the respect of everyone. What he did in the Kentucky game, everyone talks about a kid getting confidence. It's when a team has confidence in its point guard that you take off. This team has great confidence in Quinn and he has earned it."
Neither team led by more than four points over the final 10 minutes until Cook's final free throw with 6.7 seconds left made it 76-71.
Cook, who had six assists and just four turnovers against Louisville's pressure defense, was 4 of 8 from the field and made all six of his free throws. He started his closing run when he took a long inbounds pass from Mason Plumlee and scored to give Duke a 70-68 lead with 1:14 left. Every time the Cardinals scored, Cook answered. His biggest hoop was a running jumper with 3 seconds left on the shot clock that made it 72-67 with 27 seconds to go.
"I thought that play was one of the separators," Krzyzewski said.
Cook said the "coaches get mad at us for not shooting our shots. I hit the 3 and that got me going. Then I hit the runner. I just wanted to stay aggressive. I was open so I shot the ball."
Peyton Siva had 19 points for the Cardinals (5-1). He brought them back from an 11-point second-half deficit by scoring the first seven points of an 11-2 run that brought Louisville within 54-52 with 10:55 to play.
Russ Smith added 17 points for Louisville, which played without 6-foot-10 Gorgui Dieng. The shot-blocking center is out with an injured left wrist and his replacement, 6-10 Zach Price, scored the game's first basket, doubling his point total for the season. He finished with four points and three rebounds.
"We don't know if it's broken yet," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "If it's broken you'll get me disappointed. I don't want to know. I want to stay in an upbeat mode. Just tell me tomorrow."
Even though the game had two of college basketball's greatest coaches in Krzyzewski and Pitino, and was played in one of the world's playgrounds for the rich, it was the players who were the stars of the night.
"Siva and Smith are lights-out good players," Krzyzewski said.
The pace wasn't frenetic but it was upbeat. The work under the boards was rugged. There weren't many fans in the Imperial Arena, a grand ballroom turned into a basketball venue, who weren't on the edge of their seats or standing for the final 10 minutes.
Louisville hurt itself by missing four straight free throws in a 2-minute span until Chane Behanan made the second of two with a minute left to bring the Cardinals within 70-67.
"We had a very good opportunity but we missed our free throws and they made their free throws," Pitino said. "But our effort was extraordinary and I'm proud of them. They're a top-10 team."
The win was the 23rd straight in a regular-season tournament for the Blue Devils, a streak that dates to the championship of the 2006 CBE Classic.
Louisville had won the last four regular-season tournaments it was in.