SALEM, Va. -- Williams College basketball coach Mike Maker looked at the stat sheet for a second.
"We shot 58 percent from the field -- and lost," said Maker. "That's a tough pill to swallow."
The Ephs shot 65 percent from the floor in the first half and 50 in the second, but committed 11 second-half turnovers that led to 20 points for top-ranked St. Thomas. That helped the Tommies rebound from a 12-point deficit in the first half and beat the Ephs 82-79 in an NCAA Division III Elite Eight game Friday afternoon at the Civic Center.
James Klemm, who tied for game-high scoring honors with 20 points, had a 3-point shot to tie the game blocked by Erik Tengwall as the Ephs (26-5) came back from 8 points down with 5.3 seconds left. The Ephs got the ball and didn't get a good look at the basket as a desperation trey by Daniel Wohl missed the net.
St. Thomas (30-1) advances to a Final Four game tonight at 6 against Mary Hardin-Baylor.
The Williams senior class of Klemm, Nate Robertson and Sean Hoffman closed their careers with three trips to Salem in four seasons.
"It's incredible," said Klemm. "That's what it's all about. It's all about the journey. It would have been awesome to have advanced and won, and get to the possibility to win a championship. What it's all about is the journey."
The journey started well for the Ephs, jumping out to a 36-24 lead with 5:35 left in the first half. The top-ranked Tommies cut the lead to 47-39 at halftime and took the lead for the first time on a 3-point shot by Will DeBerg (20 points) with 16:12 to play. But gradually, the Tommies pulled away.
Williams fell behind 82-74 with 48.9 seconds remaining, and the Williams faithful among the crowd of 1,334 were feeling the game slip away.
Robertson, who finished with 8 points and 11 assists, drove to the basket and scored with 41.3 seconds left. Maker called time out with his team down 82-76.
Coming out of the timeout, Klemm fouled Tengwall. The Tommies' guard, who shoots 86 percent from the line, missed both free throws.
Daniel Wohl got the rebound, the Ephs got into the frontcourt quickly and Robertson found Taylor Epley for a 3-ball from deep on the right wing. Suddenly, it was 82-79 with 32 seconds left.
Klemm stole the ball from Tengwell with 15 seconds left and Maker called his final time out with 9 seconds left. The play was set up for Klemm to shoot a trey, but Tengwell blocked the attempt, which led to the final hectic seconds.
"Our guys, we trusted them to let it roll. We knew what our defensive scheme was going to be," said St. Thomas coach John Tauer. "The challenge with 9 seconds left is they could go for a quick two and play. The way we were taking care of the ball in the last minute, quite frankly, I would have been worried if we were up one and had the ball."
In the second half, the Tommies kind of beat the Ephs at their own game. The Ephs came into the game shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range and were right on target after going 8 for 19. St. Thomas came in shooting nearly 43 percent, and the Tommies finished up 15 for 25, for 60 percent. The 15 treys ties a school record.
"That's a result of a couple of things. Their dribble penetration and our goal was to keep the ball out of the lane on the bounce," said Maker. "They're a tough guard. We were trying to protect the paint. In the second half, they got to where they wanted off the bounce, which forced rotation and gave them open looks."
The Tommies took the momentum in the second half by outscoring Williams 11-2 until the first media time out at 16:17. The Ephs were 0 for 4 from the floor in that burst, and the only points came on two free throws by Michael Mayer.
Mayer fouled out with 50 seconds left while trying to set a screen. He finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots.
Williams opened the first half on fire, outscoring St. Thomas 16-7 by the time the first media timeout was whistled with 13:55 left. The Ephs kept the gap between 7-12 points through most of the half, and they led 42-30 with 3:17 left. The nation's No. 1 team trimmed the Eph lead to 47-39 at halftime on a shot by Zach Riedeman with 5 seconds left.
"They're as talented a team as we've faced all year," said Maker. "We knew it would be a stiff test."
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