A tale of two halves
By Brian Falzarano,
Freshman Quardell Young keyed the Warhawks dramatic
SALEM, Va. -- Up 47-29 with 14:41 remaining, Cabrini was seemingly only a combination of unfortunate circumstances away from celebrating its first NCAA Division III men's basketball national championship – this just four years removed from a string of sub-.500 seasons.
Which, of course, foreshadows what unfolded Saturday night at the Salem Civic Center: UW-Whitewater dancing under falling confetti after a 63-60 victory, having capped an incredible comeback to capture its first Walnut and Bronze since its coach, Pat Miller, played guard for the 1989 title-winning team.
So what turned Cabrini's One Shining Moment into UW-Whitewater's third national championship?
Wistfully, Cabrini coach Marcus Kahn, whose program was 12-14 before he took over prior to the 2008-09 campaign, called it, simply, “A tale of two games, a tale of two halves.”
From the brink of a blowout, the Warhawks started by taking a deep breath. They remembered how they survived their taxing non-conference, Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and postseason slates. Even trailing by 18, Miller reminded his players during a timeout that there was “no cause to get excited. We just emphasized it's a 40-minute game. We talked about it on the bench: It's a 40-minute game.”
And then, they benefited from the foul trouble which forced the Cavaliers to abandon the press that fueled a prolific offense averaging 85.1 points per contest. Confined to a half-court set, Cabrini converted just three field-goal attempts – all by D3hoops.com Rookie of the Year Aaron Walton-Moss – over the final 14:41.
At the other end of the floor, UW-Whitewater reserve rookie guard Quardell Young emerged with three consecutive baskets against a listless Cavalier defense. Moreover, when the Warhawks' about face began, tournament Most Outstanding Player and D3hoops.com Player of the Year Chris Davis had more fouls (three) than points (two) before burying a three-pointer with 10:12 remaining.
“Once I make a shot, I think every shot is going to go in after that,” Davis said. “Once I hit that shot, I got into a rhythm and finished strong.”
Over the final 10:12, Davis scored 10 of his 12 points. Although well below his 22.3 point-per-game average, four of them came within 13 seconds on a short jumper and two free throws as Wisconsin-Whitewater seized a 61-57 lead with 59.8 seconds left – its first lead since a 6-4 advantage 5:51 into the game.
Despite an old-fashioned three-point play from John Boyd, who averaged 26.0 points in the national semifinals and finals, two free throws from Alex Edmunds with 14 seconds remaining gave Cabrini only a chance to force overtime.
However, a pair of desperation heaves – the first from Boyd, the last from Walton-Moss that sailed over the rim as time expired – left Cabrini morning a lost opportunity while Wisconsin-Whitewater danced a celebratory dance at center court inside a building a few full-court passes from where the Warhawks' football team has threepeated as Division III champions.
“Coming here and knowing our football team has won national championships, expectations are high,” Young said. “We came here and got it done.”
Afterward, the Warhawks posed for pictures with their spoils of their comeback. Several players tucked a piece of the twine they had just clipped down behind their ears, while all of them took turns posing with the championship trophy they will take back to Whitewater with them.