Originally created 03/12/06

Block party lifts Xavier to crown



CINCINNATI - Down to its last 5.1 seconds, a Xavier team given up for lost only a month ago found its way back to the NCAA Tournament.

Two free throws. Two blocks. One huge celebration.

Justin Doellman made two free throws with 5.1 seconds left, and Xavier blocked Dwayne Lee's last two shots, holding on for a 62-61 victory over Saint Joseph's for the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship Saturday.

Doellman blocked Lee's driving layup out of bounds with 1.3 seconds left, and Justin Cage swatted away Lee's 3-point attempt at the buzzer, bringing hundreds of Xavier fans onto the floor for an unexpected celebration.

Xavier (21-10) became the first team in Division I history to pull off an improbable feat for the second time - winning four games in four days for a tournament title. The Musketeers also did it in 2004 for their last NCAA appearance.

"It's been a roller coaster," said Doellman, who has played the past three weeks with two broken bones in his shooting hand. "It's really brought us together, and we got on a roll."

Before he went to the line for the decisive free throws, Doellman - a 77 percent shooter - got encouragement from coach Sean Miller.

"He just told me he believed in me, be a big-time player and knock down the shots," Doellman said.

Saint Joseph's (18-13) wasted a 10-point lead in the final 7 minutes, losing the A10 title game for the second consecutive year.

So did Xavier, which had to continually reinvent itself after a devastating February.

Leading scorer Brian Thornton broke his ankle, Doellman broke his hand, and senior point guard Dedrick Finn was kicked off the team for a rule violation.

Appropriately, the Musketeers hoisted Thornton to the rim to cut down the last shred of net and finish their celebration.

"For a coach, this is the ultimate fulfillment," Miller said. "You go through some adversity - in our case, a lot of adversity - and all of the doubts."