Young is a game changer in UW-Whitewater championship
Pat Miller glanced up to the scoreboard in the Salem Civic Center.
A national championship was slipping away.
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater coach, who helped the Warhawks win a Division III title as a player in 1989, had watched Cabrini College frustrate Division III Player of the Year Chris Davis inside all game, make tough shots on the other end, and build an 18-point second half lead in the NCAA Division III title game on Saturday in Salem, Va.
Miller surveyed his team.
They remained positive, heads up, but something had to change -- quickly.
As Warhawks guard Alex Merg stepped to the free throw line with 13 minutes, 49 seconds left in the game, UW-Whitewater hadn't recorded a field goal since Luke Knoble made a layup four minutes earlier.
"I didn't know what to feel, what to think," Davis said. "We were trying our hardest but they kept scoring and scoring."
Miller called freshman Quardell Young off from the bench.
"Attack the rim," he said.
Merg made both free throws, cutting the Cavaliers lead to 47-31; and the first year player from Kenosha's Bradford High School entered the game
Following teammate Cody Odegaard's steal and layup, Young did just that, scoring six consecutive points in the paint.
"I knew this lead wasn't going to cut itself," Young said of his mindset. "We had to get good shots, high percentage shots, and during my six point stretch I kept building confidence in myself."
The 6-foot guard's aggression alternately energized the Warhawks and deadened the legs of the Cavaliers, who Miller thought - at some point -would have to feel the effects of playing on back-to-back nights.
"Once Quardell got going it definitely gave us a big boost for the offense and defense," Davis said. "The turning point was when he came in."
The freshman scored two more points and assisted on a Davis 3-pointer in the final 12:50, a period of time that saw UW-Whitewater climb out of its hole with a 32-10 run that lasted until the final minute of the game when the Warhawks took a 61-57 lead on a Davis basket.
"It was the first time that we were actually able to penetrate their defense and break 'em down and I think that flustered them to a degree and they got out of their good pattern they had been in," Miller said. "Once that happened, it started to open up other things."
Cabrini cut it to 61-60 with 43 seconds left, but Alex Edmunds scored from inside to push the lead back to three with 14 seconds left.
Beginning with Odegaard's layup, the Warhawks scored 18 of those 30 points in the paint.
"We've got a tight group, so if one of us sparks us, we all get it going," Davis said. "And we got that spark and everybody fed off of it."
Miller said at times during the season Young would show flashes of brilliance on offense, but would then recede into a deferential role.
That wasn't the case Saturday.
Defensively, he had spent most of the game defending Cabrini's All-American guard Cory Lemons, but he had enough in the tank to give UW-Whitewater the lift it needed (10 points) on its biggest stage.
"He has that potential and he definitely has had stretches where he's taken over games," Miller said. "We just told him look, we're not making outside shots, they're taking Chris out, you need to go.'"
The weight of the accomplishment collapsed on the Warhawks after the Cavaliers missed two game-tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds, all parts joy, relief and splendid exhaustion.
"It was an unbelievable feeling," Young said. "Knowing the situation we were put in, down 18 points, it's just unreal. Unreal. It's unbelievable the way we played and the effort we showed as a team."
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