Wisconsin-Whitewater edges Williams to win DIII national championship
SALEM, Va. -- Wisconsin-Whitewater practices end-game situations all the time. The Warhawks never again will question why.
Quardell Young drove the length of the court for a go-ahead layup with 0.9 seconds left Saturday and the Warhawks held off Williams to win their second Division III men's championship in three years, 75-73.
Young got the inbound pass after Michael Mayer's tip had given Williams a 73-72 lead with 4.9 seconds to play. Young, a speedy junior, burst downcourt and was fouled by Mayer, his shot rolling on the rim and finally falling. After he made the free throw, the Ephs had one last chance, but Duncan Robinson's contested heave from halfcourt was well off the mark.
Warhawks head coach Pat Miller liked the odds once he saw Young get the ball and go.
''Our best opportunity is to get the ball in his hands and let him attack a defense that hasn't gotten set,'' Miller said.
The Warhawks (29-4), whose football team has won five national championships in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, also in Salem, since 2007, won its fourth title in as many trips to the title game. Whitewater also won in 1984, '89 and 2012.
The past two titles have come under Miller, who was a player on the team that won it all in 1989. ''I don't think you could ask for anything better at our level to have a national championship come down to a finish like that,'' he said.
KJ Evans led the Warhawks with 22 points and Young and Eric Bryson had 13 each.
''Great way to go out my senior season,'' said Bryson, who was also on the 2012 team.
Williams (28-5), which won the title in 2003, has lost in the final three times since, but this one hurt the most. The Ephs drubbed rival Amherst 98-69 in Friday night's semifinals, avenging three losses during the season, but couldn't quite finish.
''It's hard to put into words the emptiness I feel for not being able to help them win,'' head coach Mike Maker said.
Mayer led the Ephs with 26 points and nine rebounds and Robinson scored 17.
After Mayer's tip-in, Robinson, only a freshman, admitted thinking, ''We just won the national championship.''
The 6-foot-9 Mayer was quick to get downcourt, where he had helped close off the middle all game, when Young arrived, laying the left-handed finger-roll onto the rim, where it rolled around a bit, then fell dramatically through the net.
''He just made a really good play,'' Mayer said.
The score was tied seven times, the last at 69-all after Bryson's driving basket with 2:37 to play. Two free throws by Robinson gave back the lead to the Ephs, and Bryson took it back with a deep 3-pointer with 54.7 seconds to play. The next points came when Robinson, after a timeout with 18.7 seconds to play, drove in and missed, but Mayer tipped it in.
Williams trailed 49-42 after Alex Merg's 3-pointer for Whitewater with 14:55 to play, and the Ephs quickly responded with a 14-3 run. Mayer and Daniel Wohl each scored five in the run, which gave the Ephs a 46-42 lead. Whitewater pulled even at 56, and again at 63 with 6:55 left, setting up the finish.
Whitewater led 35-20 with a little more than 5 minutes remaining before the Ephs scored 13 in a row, getting a pair of inside baskets from Mayer and a 3-pointer from Robinson in the burst.
Reggie Hearn's third bucket of the half put the Warhawks up 37-33 at halftime.
The Warhawks trailed 9-5 before two free throws by Merg sparked a 25-8 run that lasted 8 1/2 minutes. Evans had seven in the run, which gave Whitewater a 30-17 lead 7 minutes before halftime.