BOSTON — Junior point guard Scottie Reynolds furiously weaved through defenders and, with an acrobatic, one-handed leaner in the middle of the lane, sewed up a spot in Villanova history.
Shoot. Now he's part of NCAA Tournament history.
Reynolds' shot with 0.5 seconds left lifted his Wildcats to a thrilling 78-76 win against Big East rival Pittsburgh in the East Region final Saturday night, sending his team to the Final Four for the first time since its title run in 1985.
"There's so many emotions going through my head," said Reynolds, the region's most outstanding player, who was still cradling the game ball in the news conference. "It's something you think about as a youngster, advancing to the Final Four and winning the championship, and to do it with these guys on my back and the players that came before us. Everybody that played before us got us in the position to where we are now, and we take great pride in continuing the tradition."
The No. 3-seeded Wildcats (30-7) had come tantalizingly close to getting back to the national semifinals before, including in 2006 when they lost in the Elite Eight to eventual champ Florida.
Forwards Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark, all seniors, were freshmen on that team.
The top-seeded Panthers (31-5), who lost the one regular-season meeting between the two teams, trailed by as many as 10 in the first half but pulled ahead 67-63 and had the ball with 3:05 left thanks to the play of senior forward Sam Young and sophomore center DeJuan Blair. But Anderson came up with a steal, drew a foul on a layup and completed the three-point play.
"We needed something to get us going," Anderson said.
Pittsburgh, looking for its first Final Four trip since 1941, followed with two turnovers on its next three possessions. Anderson hit a 3-pointer, and reserve sophomore guard Corey Fisher had six points as Villanova took a 75-72 lead with 35.4 seconds left.
The Panthers, however, tied it after Villanova guard Reggie Redding made an ill-advised length-of-the-court inbounds pass that Cunningham couldn't save. That led to two free throws by senior point guard Levance Fields to tie the score with 5.5 seconds left.
Redding then hit Cunningham at midcourt on the inbounds.
"Once I saw that they left me open, it was either up the court to Dwayne and Shane or Scottie flying down the court," Cunningham said. "Scottie was just open. He's a jet. It's kind of hard to catch him with the ball."
The 6-2 Reynolds got it on the right sideline at midcourt and raced to the lane, where he found 6-6 sophomore forward Gilbert Brown the last man to beat.
"Once he got past the first wave of defenders, I was thinking, 'Don't foul,' so I tried to contest it the best I could without fouling him," Brown said. "I probably should have jumped but didn't. And he just made a tough shot."
The Wildcats burst from the bench to celebrate, but officials said there was a half-second left. Fields heaved one from well beyond midcourt. It bounded hard off the backboard.
"When the ball left Levance's hands, it was right on target to go in," Reynolds said. "And I guess a little less off of that shot and we could be in another position right now."
On the wrong side of history.