By Pat Coleman
SALEM -- In a game that featured 20 lead changes, two extra periods and a record crowd, Wisconsin-Platteville finished the 1990s in classic fashion, defeating Hampden-Sydney 76-75 in double overtime to claim its fourth Division III men's basketball championship of the decade.
The Pioneers (30-2) won the game without their trademark three-point shooting, taking the lead for good on one of the oldest plays in basketball, a back-door reverse layup by junior backup guard Colin Gassner with 20 seconds left in the game.
"Our whole offense is predicated on a lot of basket cuts," said Wisconsin-Platteville head coach Bo Ryan, who has been at the helm for all four titles. "Our guys don't quit doing the little things and that finally opened up."
Hampden-Sydney, the hometown favorite only a two-hour drive away, had two shots at the basket on the ensuing possession but hit iron twice. After Blake Knutson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 6.2 seconds left, Jeremy Harris forced up a shot that didn't fall.
"We had several great chances to win," said Hampden-Sydney head coach Tony Shaver, "but didn't make that one big play."
"I think the players did a fantastic job defending that last play" said Ryan. "They had a couple of looks at the basket, but they weren't good looks."
Hampden-Sydney (29-3) led 66-63 with 36 seconds left in the first overtime before Pioneer power forward Mike Jones drilled a three-pointer to force a second extra period.
Shaver said, "It's amazing the difference between winning and losing. Jones stuck a great shot, the toughest I've seen in a long time."
"I thought I was open, got the look and was able to knock it down," said Jones, who had attempted only seven three-pointers before tonight. He finished with a game-high 21 points and 16 rebounds.
The game was tight for the entire first half with neither team holding more than a five-point lead. When Alex Robbins hit a free throw with 14:23 left in the game, the Tigers held a six-point lead, but UWP went on a 16-3 run over the next six minutes.
After shooting 53% in the first half, the Tigers shot 37.5% the rest of the way. Platteville shut down Hampden-Sydney's transition game, which produced six points in the first 20 minutes and none in the final 30. Chris Fox led four Tigers in double figures with 18 points on 4-for-6 three-point shooting.
"That was one of the best-coached, well-drilled, fundamentally sound teams I've coached against in 15 years at Wisconsin-Platteville," said Ryan. "But we had something special tonight."
NOTES: The game was the first double-overtime contest in the 25-year history of the Division III men's basketball championship. . . Platteville junior guard Merrill Brunson was named the Final Four MVP. . . The appearance by Hampden-Sydney was the first by a South Region team since Centre finished fourth in 1989. . . Wisconsin-Platteville became the first team to win consecutive championships since North Park won three titles in a row from 1978-80. North Park has also won the most championships (five) in the history of Division III men's basketball. . . Platteville shot 4-for-21 from three-point range after shooting 41.9% the rest of the season. . . The 4,461 paid attendance was the largest in the 25-year history of the D-III title game.
Wisconsin-Platteville 76, Hampden-Sydney 75 (2 OT)
at Salem, Va. (att. 4,461)
Merrill Brunson, Wisconsin-Platteville (Most Outstanding Player)
Mike Jones, Wisconsin-Platteville
T.J. Grimes, Hampden-Sydney
Jeremy Harris, Hampden-Sydney
Horace Jenkins, William Paterson
Connecticut College 92, William Paterson 83 (OT)
Wisconsin-Platteville 75, William Paterson 51
Hampden-Sydney 74, Connecticut College 58
Connecticut College 73, Trinity (Conn.) 70
Hampden-Sydney 68, John Carroll 51
William Paterson 50, Richard Stockton 49
Wisconsin-Platteville 61, Gustavus Adolphus 47
Trinity (Conn.) 89, Hamilton 73
Connecticut College 80, Cortland St. 66
John Carroll 78, Mississippi College 57
Hampden-Sydney 74, Wooster 66
Richard Stockton 60, Wilkes 50
William Paterson 79, Catholic 71
Wisconsin-Platteville 74, Manchester 65
Gustavus Adolphus 66, Franklin 65
Hamilton 72, St. John Fisher 70
Trinity (Conn.) 71, Bowdoin 57
Cortland State 71, Geneseo State 61
Connecticut College 94, Western Connecticut 76
John Carroll 88, Ohio Northern 83 (OT)
Mississippi College 67, Maryville (Tenn.) 53
Wooster 89, Otterbein 80
Hampden-Sydney 74, Randolph-Macon 65
Wilkes 77, Franklin & Marshall 58
Richard Stockton 62, New Jersey City 56
Catholic 73, Goucher 69
William Paterson 58, Rowan 55
Wisconsin-Platteville 85, Augsburg 53
Manchester 62, Wheaton (Ill.) 60
Gustavus Adolphus 58, Upper Iowa 55
Franklin 81, Ripon 73
Hamilton 66, Rochester 58
Bowdoin 68, Bridgewater State 48
Cortland State 85, Rochester Institute of Technology 49
Western Connecticut 70, Clark 51
John Carroll 68, Allegheny 62
Maryville (Tenn.) 66, Rose-Hulman 59
Otterbein 104, Defiance 90
Randolph-Macon 68, Christopher Newport 66
Franklin & Marshall 81, Johns Hopkins 66
New Jersey City 79, Kings Point 66
Catholic 77, Lebanon Valley 72
William Paterson 76, Staten Island 59
Augsburg 102, Nebraska Wesleyan 91
Wheaton (Ill.) 81, Washington U. 79
Gustavus 67, Pomona-Pitzer 37
Ripon 63, Illinois Wesleyan 58