SALEM, VA – An end of the game layup attempt by Eph first year Taylor Epley rolled off the rim as time expired and The College of Wooster came all the way back from 16 down in the second half to defeat Williams 73-71.
Wooster's comeback started when the Fighting Scots trailed 63-46 with just over nine minutes to play.
"I think we just got a little complacent [up 17] and then Ian Franks just took over," said the Ephs James Wang. "We also got a little stagnant on offense."
Fueling the Wooster comeback was a plus 11 in the turnover category with Williams turning it over 16 times to just 5 for the Scots over 40 minutes.
Williams committed 24 fouls on the night with 13 coming in the game's final 20 minutes. "We just turned the ball over too much, giving them extra possessions," said Eph head coach Mike Maker. "And our foul situation changed the way we had to play."
"I'm really proud of my players, to make it to back-to-back Final Fours is very difficult to do," said Maker. "We've won 59 games [vs. 5 losses] in two years and as painful as this loss is I just love my players… I hurt so much for them. Congratulations to Wooster, they're so very well-coached and tough minded. I thought we were fatigued and that is to their credit."
Wooster's standout senior Ian Franks erupted for 18 second half points after netting only six in the first 20 minutes and he received some clutch shooting support from Nathan Balch with two timely threes to lead the fighting Scots to their record 31st win of the year (31-2). Justin Hallowell also netted 18 for the winners.
With the loss the Ephs finish at 29-3.
The Ephs connected on 22 of 42 from the floor for 52.4% and the Scots made 26-61, 42.6%. Wooster had one more rebound in the contest than did the Ephs 30-29, but 19 more shots.
Wooster opened up the second half going down low to Franks in the hopes of getting him warmed up early. Franks was guarded by the Ephs James Klemm and Franks' inside attempt was off the mark and the Ephs grabbed the rebound
Troy Whittington opened the second half scoring with a wicked spin move in the lane and a right-handed layin.
Franks answered the Whittington hoop with a short jumper and then Whittington was fouled underneath. Whittington hit 1 of 2 and the Ephs led 45-30.
Whittington picked up his first foul on a Franks inside effort and Franks netted 1 of 2 charity tosses.
Off a Whittington miss Franks drew contact from Dodson and made both free throws cutting the Eph lead to 12, 45-33. Then Whittington picked up his second foul trying to go baseline.
Just under three minutes into the second half a holding foul on James Wang gave the Ephs their fifth team foul.
James Klemm hit a three from in front of the Eph bench and the Eph lead was back to 15 at 48-33.
Wooster's Justin Hallowell matched the Klemm three with one his own from the left side and with 15:50 to play the Eph lead was down to 12, 48-36.
Just 4:36 in to the final 20 minutes a Brian Emerson foul lifted the Eph team foul count to six.
Ian Franks followed up his own missed shot and the Eph lead was at 10, 48-38.
Nate Robertson netted two for the Ephs with a drive down the lane.
Josh Claytor with a lefty jump hooks cuts the Eph margin back to 10 at 50-40 and Eph head coach Mike Maker calls a full time out after the Ephs cross midcourt with 13:28 left.
James Wang drove for two and the Eph lead was back to a dozen 54-42.
Dodson picked up his fourth foul with 12:08 left and the Scots were now in the one and one bonus. Hallowell connected on both free throws and the Ephs lead was 10, 54-44.
Wang hit a deep three from the right corner off a Whittington feed to make it 57-44 Williams.
At 10:04 James Wang was fouled on his way to the hoop and the junior captain hit both free throws to make it 59-44 Ephs and the Ephs called a time out.
A lazy cross court pass by Hayden Rooke-Ley intended for an Eph was picked off by Ian Franks who laid it in and the Eph lead was 13 at 9:38.
Nate Robertson was fouled by Franks and made both free throws and the Eph lead was now 15, 61-46. Brian Emerson was hacked on his way up after he was hit by a great entry pass from Taylor Epley. Emerson's two from the line made it 63-46 Williams with just over nine minutes left.
At 8:18 Nate Robertson picked up his fourth foul penetrating and passing to Dodson in the corner but his momentum carried him into Wickliffe.
Wooster called time out with 7:50 left after Nathan Balch hit a deep three from the top of the key and cut the Eph lead to 12 at 63-51.
Justin Hallowell's three from the left of the key off a pass out of a double team by Ian Franks drops the Eph lead under 10 at 9, 63-54, with 6:25 left and Wooster called another time out.
With 5:53 left Ian Franks was fouled in the lane by Taylor Epley and the senior went to the line and made both free throws to make it 63-56 Williams.
Bryan Wickliffe stole the ball from James Wang and was fouled by Wang with 5:36 left. Wickliffe hit both free throws at the other end and the Eph lead had shrunk to 5, 63-58.
Emerson picked up his fourth foul setting a pick and the ball went back to Wooster. Franks made the Ephs pay with another bucket in the lane. Williams calls time out when they crossed midcourt at 5:06.
Off a missed three by Robertson the Scots' Ian Franks tied it with trey a from the top of the key with 4:40 left .
With 4:20 remaining Troy Whittington was at the line for a one and one and the senior captain hit 1of 2, Williams led 64-63.
Ian Franks lowered his shoulder into Dodson in the lane and Franks was called for the charge.
Nathan Balch hit a pull up 17-footer and Wooster led 65-64 with 3:35 on the clock.
Nate Robertson scored with his left hand going down the lane and the Ephs led 66-65 with 3:19 left and Robertson toeing the line for a free throw. Robertson made the free throw – Williams 67-65.
Wooster's Hallowell missed a long three and Ephs rebounded, but Ian Franks steals a pass and drives in to tie the game at 67 with 2:43 to play.
An Ian Franks shot was short and Whittington collected it and passed it to Nate Robertson pushing the ball up court. Robertson got fouled in the lane by Franks. The foul was Franks fifth.
Robertson hit the first to tie the score at 70 and his second was also good putting Williams up 71-70 with 1:06 left.
Bryan Wickliffe went baseline and came up on the other side of the hoop drawing contact from Troy Whittington to earn a trip to the line for two free throws.
Wickliffe's first free throw caught iron but went in and his second hit nothing but net and Wooster led by one 72-71.
Robertson missed inside and Robertson had to foul Balch who went to the line with 25.6 left and missd the first, but makes the second, 73-71, Wooster.
Wang is tied up with 8.3 left, but Ephs retain possession on the arrow.
Wang's three from near the Ephs bench rattled out and off a scramble the Ephs had the ball out of bound with two ticks left.
On the game's final play Taylor Epley's left-handed layup attempt rolled off the rim as the horn sounded and Wooster advanced to tomorrow's championship game vs. the winner of the 8:00 p.m. game between Middlebury and St. Thomas (MN).
The Ephs opened up on fire, quickly building a 5-0 lead on their first two trips down the floor en route to a 14-point halftime lead courtesy of 7-14 shooting from beyond the arc and some solid defense on Wooster's Ian Franks.
The Ephs were a red hot 15-23 from the floor (65%), while holding Wooster to 39% from the floor (12-31). The Ephs were led in scoring by the trio of Troy Whittington, Nate Robertson and James Klemm all with 8. Bryan Wickliffe and Justin Hallowell topped Wooster with 8 each and top scorer Ian Franks was held to 6 points on 3-10 shooting.
Franks was held in check and off the scoreboard for just over 13 minutes by a trio of Ephs -- Nate Robertson, Hayden Rooke-Ley and Taylor Epley, and one impressive block by Troy Whittington.
James Wang led the Ephs on the glass with four rebounds, which was the Ephs margin on the glass in the half (17-13). Hallowell collected four rebounds to lead the Fighting Scots.
A concern for the Ephs at the break was foul trouble with Robertson owning 3, Klemm and Emerson with two apiece. As a team the Ephs committed 11 fouls, while Wooster had just 6.
Troy Whittington opened the scoring on the night with a layup off a feed from Robertson on the Ephs first possession and then Klemm hit a three on the next trip down the court, 5-0 Ephs.
Wooster finally scored 2:45 in when Justin Hallowell scored on a put back.
Klemm answered with a three from the right corner, 8-2 Williams.
Nate Robertson hits a three from the left side off a feed out of a double team from Whittington giving the Ephs an 11-2 lead at 16:34.
Nathan Balch got the second Wooster hoop just over 5 minutes in with a jumper from the right baseline that was immediately answered with a three from the top of the key by Hayden Rooke-Ley putting the Ephs up 14-4.
James Wang hit two free throws to make it a 10-point Eph lead at 16-6.
At 12:20 Whittington worked his way to the baseline and baked in a shot and got fouled, Ephs up 18-6.
Josh Claytor got two back inside for Wooster with a lefty jump hook, which was answered by a drive down the right side of lane by James Wang who scored on a scoop shot with his right hand.
A Brian Emerson layin off a feed from Taylor Epley to give Williams a 14-point lead at 22-8.
Taylor Epley hit a long three from in front of the Wooster bench and the Eph lead grew to 15, 25-10. The lead went to 17 on a feed from Emerson to Klemm who cut backdoor on the baseline, 27-12 Ephs.
A charge call against James Klemm at 8:15 left the Ephs with a 15-point lead, 27-12, but with eight team fouls.
Robertson nailed a three from the top of the key with 7:22 left gave he Ephs their largest lead at 16, 30-14.
7:17 Nate Robertson picks up his second foul sending Ian Franks to the foul line and he missed the front end of a one and one.
A foul line jumper by Harlan Dodson boosted the Eph lead to 18 at 32-14.
Ian Franks scored his first points of the contest with 6:52 remaining in the half in on a short jumper in the paint. He netted another one on the net trip down and the Eph lead was down to 14 at 32-18 with 5:26 to play in the half.
Two free throws by Nate Robertson made it 34-18.
Bryan Wickliffe's right-handed layin with 4:30 left in the half cut the Eph lead to 14 at 34-20.
Bryan Wickliffe energized the Wooster crowd with a three from the top of the Key and Whittington answered inside bulling his way to the hoop, 36-23. After a Wickliffe free throw Whittington hit a tough turnaround in the lane as he is falling away.
A Wang step back three from the top of the key with 7.6 left in the half topped off the scoring in the first 20 minutes and gave the Ephs a 14-point lead at 42-28 at the break.
"Big thing in the first half was it wasn't like we were playing bad basketball, only had two turnovers, had some good shots," said Wooster head coach Steve Moore. "Williams was just playing really, really well. They've got some fantastic players and they execute their offense as good as anybody I've ever seen in small college basketball. We were working really hard and they were just scoring."
NOTES: Williams defeated Wooster in the 2003 National Semifinals 74-72 in OT on a buzzer-beating put back by Drew DeMuth '03 before downing Gustavus Adolphus 67-65 to win the 2003 NCAA title… The Ephs Maker in NCAA Tournament play is now 8-2… Wooster's Steve Moore is now 24-14 in the NCAA Tourney… this is the 56th NCAA Division III Championship that the City of Salem has hosted the 16th straight Men's Division III Basketball Championship.