BALTIMORE -- Carl Baptiste scored a career-high 24 points, including a go-ahead layup with 10 seconds left, and top-seeded Delaware squeezed past William & Mary 75-74 Monday night to win the Colonial Athletic Association championship and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years.
Delaware (25-9) will be making its fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Hens, who previously qualified in 1992, 1993, 1998 and 1999, were making their first appearance in a league championship since losing to Hofstra in the 2001 America East tournament.
This one wasn't easy. Delaware trailed 74-68 with 1:20 left before scoring the game's last seven points. After Devon Saddler made two foul shots, Jarvis Threatt added a three-point play and Baptiste capped the comeback with a bullish layup.
William & Mary had one last chance, but Marcus Thornton bounced a jumper off the rim just before the buzzer sounded. An instant later, Hens fans rushed the court to celebrate with the team.
In the end and from the outset, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Baptiste was too much to handle for the third-seeded Tribe (20-12). He scored 16 points in the first half on 7-for-7 shooting and finished 9 for 11, in addition to going 6 for 7 at the foul line and grabbing eight rebounds.
Thornton scored 22 and Tim Rusthoven had 16 for William and Mary.
Despite playing in the CAA championship game for the third time in the last seven seasons, William & Mary remains in search of its first NCAA tournament appearance. Along with Army, St. Francis (N.Y.), Northwestern and The Citadel, the Tribe are one of five original Division I members never to have made the NCAA tournament.
Delaware led 39-33 at halftime and went up by 12 early in the second half before William & Mary used a 12-4 run to close to 51-46. Baptiste got his third foul with 11:37 left and was on the bench when Brandon Britt scored for the Tribe to make it 55-53.
It was 65-62 before layups by Rusthoven and Omar Prewitt gave the Tribe their first lead since 30-29. William & Mary increased its lead to 69-65 with 3:34 to go before Darvon Usher popped a 3 for Delaware.
Thornton answered with a jumper and Prewitt drilled a 3-pointer to make it 74-68, but the Tribe would not score again.
William & Mary advanced by defeating second-seeded Towson in the semifinals after losing twice previously to the Tigers. William & Mary could not duplicate the feat against the Hens, who have won seven straight against the Tribe, including 76-71 and 89-72 previously this season.
Delaware overcome a 2-for-12 performance beyond the arc to go up 39-33 at halftime.
William & Mary made seven of its first nine shots in racing to an 18-10 lead. The Hens then rattled off seven straight points before Kyle Gallard interrupted the run with a three-point play.
Baptiste followed with a three-point play of his own and added two layups in a 12-3 spree that put Delaware up 29-24.
Rusthoven responded with three successive baskets for the Tribe, the last a hook in the lane over Baptiste, but the Hens closed the half with a 10-3 spurt.