IF UNDERDOGS CAN be pedigreed, that Pack from North Carolina State that just did the basketball impossible must win all the prizes. In one swoop, these upstarts outdunked America's odds-on favorites from Houston in the final seconds to steal the NCAA basketball championship, 54-52. And if there is more than a little out-of-town pride and joy the best among these victors were talented and classy players in high school here long before they went south.

Sidney Lowe, Dereck Whittenburg and Thurl Bailey may be new heroes to many across the country, but players, coaches and even youngsters around Washington who came to know these three young men on and off the court have always spoken of them with respect. Clearly their character stood out through a series of upsets these last weeks as fans whose fascination with this high-flying college sport were nailed to their home screens for unconscionable long terms. Control under pressure is one thing, but coolness in grim adversity -- the comeback -- became the tournament specialty of these gifted, well-coached and unselfish stars.

So it was natural for the big three in their moment of storybook victory to share the stage and credit generously with teammate Lorenzo Charles -- who deserved it, for staying alert and converting Mr. Whittenburg's 32-foot air-ball into the game-winning stuff shot. Natural, too, to all who know him, were Mr. Lowe's generous compliments to coach and team after his own flawless performance.

There was a special glow in the performances and outcome for one man who watched the game on a set here: Morgan Wootten, the teacher-coach-mentor-and-molder-of-men from De Matha High School, whose lessons for Messrs. Lowe and Whittenburg were the same as those he has always emphasized -- that basketball is one small part of a man's life. "Tomorrow," he reminded everybody, "they start all over." But in the moment to savor, there was sudden-champion Whittenburg running through the courtside security officers to hug his mother and say, "We did it, Mama."

Did they ever.