SALEM, Va. -- Four seconds can be a lifetime in college basketball. On Saturday night, that was what kept Williams College from winning a second NCAA Division III title.
Mike Mayer's putback of Duncan Robinson's miss with four seconds left gave Williams the lead. Before the Williams fans in the Salem Civic Center stopped cheering, Quandell Young took the ball coast-to-coast to complete a game-winning 3-point play and give Wisconsin-Whitewater the national title.
Williams battled back from a 15-point deficit in the first half but could not close the deal as Wisconsin-Whitewater scored a 75-73 win for their second national title in the last three seasons.
"To be honest, I felt we won the national championship," Robinson said, when asked about Mayer's tip-in.
Mayer fouled Young, who finished the 3-point play with nine-tenths of a second left. Williams had one desperation chance. Daniel Wohl threw a halfcourt pass to Robinson just inside the midcourt line. Robinson's halfcourt heave fell short, as did Williams' championship run.
"It was just one second," said Williams coach Mike Maker, "one second away from winning the whole thing."
Maker, the senior center who was named a D3hoops.com first-team All-American on Saturday, finished his Williams career by scoring a game-high 26 points. Robinson, the freshman forward who was named a fourth-team All-American and the D3hoops.com national rookie of the year, finished up with 17 points.
K.J. Evans had 22 points to lead the Warhawks (29-4) to the national title. Young and Eric Bryson had 13 points each. Evans was the MVP of the final four and was joined on the All-Tournament team by Young, Bryson, Robinson and Mayer.
The final minute of the game kept the 2,681 fans inside the Civic Center on pins and needles. Williams had fought back from another deficit and went up 71-69 when Robinson made two free throws. Bryson got the ball at the top of the key and took it hard at Mayer, who blocked the shot.
But instead of a Williams rebound, the ball bounced to Alex Merg, who got the ball back to Bryson for an NBA-range trey, giving the Warhawks a 72-71 lead with 54.7 seconds to go.
Wisconsin-Whitewater had a chance to put the game away after Wohl turned the ball over. Steve Egan got the steal and Merg was fouled. Merg, however, missed the front end of a 1-and-1, keeping the Ephs' hopes alive.
Williams had 18.7 seconds to get off a shot. Robinson went to the hole, missed, but Mayer was there for the rebound basket, making it 73-72.
"Duncan took it hard to the hole. I saw it coming off so I knew I had to try to get a rebound," said Mayer, who finished with a game-high 9 rebounds. "I looked up and there was 4 1/2 seconds left. They just took it. The guy is really good."
"The guy" was Young, a junior guard from Kenosha, Wisc. He took the inbounds pass from Evans, weaved his way like a jet through traffic and scored on his left-handed drive to the iron.
"I know there's not that much time left, so I had to attack aggressively," Young said during the postgame media session. "I made an in-and-out move and I saw the defender shift his body toward the outside. I made one step toward the inside and I was available to get the layup."
Quite often in basketball, both college and professional, coaches will take a time out in that situation to set up a play. None was called here, because as Young said, none was necessary.
"We do a lot of that in practice with late-game situations," said Young. "I felt like there was enough time to get up and down the floor."
Williams was unable to duplicate its superhuman performance from Friday's rout of Amherst in the first half. The Ephs made only one field goal in a six-minute stretch of the first half as the Warhawks turned a one-point lead into an 11-point advantage.
The Ephs finally found their legs and their shots started falling in the final five minutes as Williams went on a 13-2 run over the last 5 minutes and trailed 37-33 at halftime.
After cutting the lead to two points on Mayer's hoop to open the second half, Wisconsin-Whitewater went back up by as many as seven before Williams went on another big run. This time, it was a 14-3 run that put the Ephs up 56-54 with 10:27 left. The game went back-and-forth from there, until those final, fateful four seconds.
"It's a heartbreaking loss to say the least," said Maker. "All you can ask for as a coach is that your players give you everything they had, represent your program and institution in the right manner and play team basketball. We did that."
To reach Howard Herman:
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On Twitter: @howardherman.