SALEM, VA. — Sleep likely was in short supply Friday night for the St. Thomas men's basketball team. No such worries about adrenaline for a team one win away from its first national championship.
The Tommies beat Middlebury (Vt.) College 59-57 Friday to set up today's NCAA Division III title game against the College of Wooster (Ohio).
"I know these guys will be ready to go tomorrow," Tommies coach Steve Fritz said. "You only get this type of dream once."
The Tommies (29-3) were led by Tyler Nicolai's 15 points. Tommy Hannon contributed 11 points and six rebounds.
St. Thomas will take an 11-game winning streak into the title game, where it will face a familiar foe.
Fritz noted that the two schools have met on the basketball court several times over the past decade and played recently for a baseball championship.
"They've got nice balance," he said of the Fighting Scots. "They obviously are very competitive. [It's] a good match between two teams that are somewhat similar."
Wooster staged a furious late game rally -- after being down by as many as 19 points -- to beat defending national runner-up Williams College 73-71. The Tommies needed to stage a comeback of their own to reach the title game.
After leading 32-25 at halftime, they trailed 50-43 with eight minutes to play. But the Tommies went on a 12-0 run to take a 57-52 lead with two minutes remaining.
Hannon had a key steal and basket during the stretch. "It lifted our spirits and got some momentum going," he said.
Nicolai, a Hopkins graduate, had two baskets on the closing minutes to help St. Thomas finish on a 10-2 run.
"Making it to the championship game means a lot," Nicolai said, "especially being my senior year."
The Tommies said they weren't worried about being ready for the championship game after a short turnaround.
"We'll eat as a team and be ready for them," said Teddy Archer, a product of DeLaSalle
"[We'll use] the same formula -- just go after them."