No 'W' for Williams
The Williams fans who made the trip from all over the Northeast watched with disappointment as the Wisconsin-Stevens Point players, coaches and fans celebrated that school's third NCAA Division III national championship.
"Everyone's really proud of our boys, and they really exceeded expectations," Williams College senior Christina Sanders, of Santa Fe, N.M., said after Stevens Point beat Williams 78-73 in the title game. "It was really fantastic to drive all the way here and see them do well. It's heart wrenching that they lost. I'm really proud they did what they did."
"It's been a great weekend, up until now," Dave Kulik, a Williams senior from Glen Ridge, N.J., said. "It's kind of bad timing, us being on spring break and all so not many kids could come down. We still had a decent number.
"They played hard, it was a great game. Both teams played great."
All-Tournament team selections Blake Schultz and Troy Whittington led Williams with 20 and 19 points, respectively. The tournament's most valuable player Matt Moses had a game-high 22 points.
"It was a tough locker room," an emotional Williams second-year head coach Mike Maker said after the game. "I'm very proud of our team. We're very disappointed we did not bring a championship back to Williams. I'm very proud of the way we represent our institution and our community. I feel like I'm the luckiest coach in the country."
Perhaps being superstitious, the Williams fans stayed in their Friday night seats. They were offered the opportunity to move to open seats behind the Williams bench. Most chose to stay where they were.
Wisconsin-Stevens Point, a school of 8,800 undergraduates, brought a large throng of fans and a pep band, but Williams fans were up to the noise task.
"They meant a lot to the campus, especially during the tournament games," Kulik said. "So many people came out. That's all anyone on campus was talking about, the basketball team. It's a shame they ended like this.
"The campus really came together in the last few weeks of the season."
This was a rematch of the 2004 national championship game, won by Stevens Point.
Mike Crotty was a senior guard on the 2004 Williams team that lost 84-82 on a buzzer-beating jump shot.
"I remember thinking that we were very confident about playing and I never once thought we were going to do anything but win the game," said Crotty, who was also the starting point guard for Williams' 2003 national champion. "The year before, there was a little bit of uncertainty because it was our first time here."
The Williams fans didn't disperse from the arena until the team had received its individual awards and the national runner-up trophy.
Crotty said that reaction is why he believes Williams is a "special place."
"Alumni were there for us when we were playing, we're here for them now and they'll be here for the next team," Crotty said. "The unbelievable passion for the school and the community is unparalleled."
To reach Howard Herman:
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.