UW-Whitewater wins NCAA Division III championship
SALEM, Va. “We believe,” the Warhawk fans chanted here Saturday night..
It seemed more hoping and wishing than actual belief at the time, but it was well-founded as UW-Whitewater erased an 18-point deficit and won the NCAA Division III national championship over Cabrinia College in a 63-60 thriller.
The victory gave UW-Whitewater both the national football and men’s basketball titles in the same year. No other Division III team has ever achieved that feat, and only the University of Florida has done that in any division.
The University of Tennessee football team and women’s basketball team both won national titles in the same year.
With 7:22 left in the national championship game, UW-Whitewater fans started their familiar chant of belief. Just minutes prior to that timeout, not many Warhawk fans were outwardly expressing any confidence.
Whitewater trailed, 47-29, with 14:43 to play and nothing appeared to be going the Warhawks’ way.
Leading scorer Chris Davis had just gathered in a defensive rebound, only to have the ball snatched from his hands and stuck in the hoop by Cavalier big man Jon Miller. Davis was whistled for a foul and had a look of disbelief at the way the game was progressing. He had two points, both free throws, at the time.
Davis and the Warhawk faithful had no reason to believe the game was about to change, but momentum is a fickle friend and it switched out of the Cabrini blue and donned the white uniform of the Warhawks the rest of the game.
That uniform might have been the No. 10 of Quardell Young. The freshman guard split the Cavalier defense on three straight possessions and served notice that the Warhawks were not finished.
Coach Pat Miller, who was a player on Whitewater’s last national championship team in 1989, said Young’s penetration was the first success the Warhawks had stabbing the Cabrini defense.
“We hadn’t been able to break them down or get the ball inside successfully,” Miller said. “That was the first time we got inside successfully and got them out of position. That opened other things up.”
Miller said Young’s dribble drive was not high on the offensive game plan.
“We always go into a game with multiple game plans and it’s usually A, B, or C. I think it was to about ‘G’ as we were trying to figure out what we were going to do to score and get ourselves back into the game,” Miller said.
Cabrini coach Marcus Kahn put the credit for turning the game squarely on Young.
“I thought that No. 10 coming in and taking it to the rack three times in a row on us,” Kahn said. “That hurt us. I thought that was the tide turning part. Those three layups he got when we stopped challenging. That’s what put us on our heels, on both ends of the floor.”
The Warhawks (29-4) trailed by only three when the chants of “We believe” started, and Alex Edmunds trimmed that to one skinny point on the next possession. He finished with 11 points, one better than Young’s 10 and behind leading Warhawk scorer Davis, who had 12.
Edmunds’ layup was a relief because he missed close shots in the early going. The Warhawks were being denied by a finicky rim more than the Cavalier defense in the first half, shooting 33 percent, missing six shots from close range.
Davis had a three-pointer during the deficit-cutting run, but it wasn’t until he buried a trey with 3:19 remaining that the Warhawks tied the game.
John Boyd led all scorers with 18 points, but the Warhawk defense was able to prevent him and Cory Lemons from shredding them the way Cabrini had to most of its opponents. The Cavaliers averaged 85 ppg this season and made a living making shots from behind the arc.
The Warhawks held them to 5-of-23 shooting from long range. They shot only 34 percent from the floor in the game.
Miller credited the composure of his team with allowing the comeback.
“With this team, we’ve been there,” he said. “They didn’t panic; didn’t start blaming each other and kept their composure. A lot of that is due to the tough and physical conference we play in.”
The Warhawks celebrate their fifth national title in Salem, the other four coming in the Stagg Bowl at Salem Football Stadium about 300 yards from the basketball arena.
For Miller, who knows what it’s like to win as a player and a coach, he said being a player is better.
“It’s really different. I think it’s better as a player. I tell these guys and I’m only half-joking that when they win, I don’t want the credit, but when they lose I don’t necessarily think that’s my fault,” Miller said with a laugh.
WHITEWATER 63, CABRINI 60
Cabrini (60)—Boyd, 6-3-18; Dulac, 0-0-0; Lemons, 3-0-7; Rafferty, 2-1-6; Williams, 1-2-4; Knowles, 2-2-6; Miller, 2-1-5. Totals: 22-11-60.
Whitewater (63)—Bryson, 1-3-5; Davis, 3-4-12; Knoble, 3-0-6; Merg, 2-6-11; Odegaard, 3-1-8; Burns, 0-0-0; Edmunds, 3-5-11; Fischer, 0-0-0; Young, 5-0-10. Totals: 20-19-63.
Cabrini College 31 29—60
UW-Whitewater 21 42—63
Three-point goals—Cabrini 5 (Boyd 3, Lemons, Rafferty), Whitewater 4 (Davis 2, Merg, Odegaard). Rebounds—Cabrini 46 (Miler 11), Whitewater 32 (Bryson 5, Davis 5). Assists—Cabrini 8 (Lemons 2), Whitewater 11 (Bryson 3). Free throws missed—Cabrini 4, Whitewater 5. Total fouls—Cabrini 23, Whitewater 16. Fouled out—Miller.