William & Mary suffered one of last March’s most galling losses when it squandered a six-point lead in the final 80 seconds of the CAA title game against Delaware.
Three hundred sixty-three days later, the Tribe got to dish out some postseason heartbreak of their own.
Instead of attempting a contested 3-pointer in the dying seconds of double overtime during Sunday’s first of two CAA semifinals, William & Mary star Marcus Thornton drew a crowd of Hofstra defenders and then dished to a wide-open Daniel Dixon spotted up in the corner. Dixon buried the go-ahead three with half a second remaining, sending top-seeded William & Mary to the championship game with a nerve-wracking 92-91 victory.
"It was a big play by Marcus having confidence in me," Dixon told reporters after the game. "He likes to take last-second shots, and usually he makes them all the time. It was big for him to want to give it up at the end."
Credit Thornton for passing to the open man because a lot of guys in his position might have hoisted the shot himself. Not only had he scored 37 points already on Sunday, it was he who has been haunted for a year by the memory of missing a potential game winner at the buzzer against Delaware last year after William & Mary had given up its late lead.
The stakes were a little higher for William & Mary on Sunday than they were for Hofstra. The Pride was trying to keep its season alive. The Tribe were playing for history.
William & Mary is one of five original Division I programs that have never reached the NCAA tournament, a list that also includes St. Francis (N.Y.), Northwestern, Army and the Citadel. Eight times in their star-crossed history, the Tribe has come within one win of escaping ignominy only to fall in its conference tournament title game.
They’ll get another chance Monday night thanks to Dixon and Thornton. Perhaps this will finally be the year when they take advantage.
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