You wanted it to go on a while longer. Say a few more days. This NCAA championship was like going to bed with a tooth under your pillow, not expecting a whole lot and waking up to find a diamond.

Villanova slapped the history book shut on Georgetown in a game as wonderful as this tournament has seen. Thank heavens for videotape.

In losing the title this year, the Hoyas may well have played better than in winning it a year ago. It took a performance for the ages to wrest the crown off the Hoyas' heads.

Make this one Cinderella marries Rocky, for Villanova's victory was more stunning than North Carolina State's in 1983. The Wildcats have just one player destined to make any impact on the pros; Georgetown is lots better than Houston.

Silly smarties who had mentioned Villa Nochance in pregame pieces were feeling quite smug early on, when the Hoyas dashed to a six-point lead.

Villanova is supposed to be a front-runner doomed if it cannot grab a lead rather quickly and peck a team into submission with dozens of passes on offense and the most inventive defense in college basketball.

Not this magical night.

Hoop junkies are beside themselves with joy, this being one of those exquisitely rare times when every possession featured something special.

By halftime, it was becoming obvious that, sadly, one of the teams would walk off the court a loser but, happily, that sport would be enhanced.

No team in the NCAAs ever shot so well (22 of 28 from the field); all it got the Wildcats was a two-point victory.

The mind's instant replay grabs a few scenes: the joy on Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino's face when he realized the supreme moment of an extraordinary career was at hand; proud Patrick Ewing holding a finger aloft as he accepted his runner-up trophy.

Let's also go back to Massimino insisting, during a press conference the day before, that if the Wildcats have the lead in the final few minutes, success is all but assured.

Against the most unrelenting defense in memory, Villanova would not fold. Twice earlier in the season against Georgetown it had, sprinting to decent leads and failing down the stretch.

These were Wildcats of a different stripe.

In many ways, Massimino is a pudgier and warmer John Thompson, he also having assumed command of a dormant program at a small school with a gym about the size of a fireplace.

He is a coach celebrated as especially cerebral, puzzled opponents usually walking off the court knowing they have lost but not nearly sure why.

What the Hoyas discovered, once more, was a gang of tall fellows very adept at passing precisely in traffic. The newly minted Tinker-to-Evers- to-Chance fable is Pinckney-to- Pressley-to-McClain.

Somehow, with Ewing flapping his arms about most of the prime shooting territory, Ed Pinckney or Harold Pressley or Dwayne McClain would find a buddy for a free shot.

Or Gary McLain would slither through the Hoyas' press and eventually find another Harold, Jensen, for an open shot.

No Hoya should be hanging his head, although three straight times something went awry after a Villanova turnover. This was critical.

Time after time, blistering shot after blistering shot, two terrific teams whose players almost certainly will graduate -- and on schedule -- squared up against each other. Naturally, few shots were launched without an unfriendly hand in the way.

Jitters must have been zipped inside duffel bags in the dressing room, for the Wildcats were 13 for 18 the first half -- and led by just one point.

The unexpectedly dazzling stars for the Wildcats were point guard McLain and front-court player Pressley.

The Flip Wilson lookalike, McLain, seems as though he never will arrive at midcourt on time with the ball under pressure, until he does; Pressley has built a house of bricks during his career, but scored 11 points tonight.

So often did the momentum sway that dwelling too long on one moment is folly; a few are worth recalling.

The Hoyas were hampered on two possessions with a freshman substitute, Perry McDonald. Also, they were unable to make maximum use of the first half's hottest shooter, Reggie Williams.

But Georgetown got a wonderful break midway through the second half, when McClain was called for charging; had it been seen as a block, Ewing would have had his fourth foul.

In this who-would-blink-first drama, Villanova nearly did. McClain and Jensen each missed bonus free throws. On the bench, the demonstrative Massimino crossed his legs and pressed harder against the back of his chair.

Here came Georgetown.

But not far enough.

So an athletic era like none in Washington, and few about the country, came to an end. Not with a title but with a tear.

Ewing ends his career having anchored teams that won more games (121) than any except the Kentucky legends of the late '40s.

The Nation's Capital never has been blessed with such a player -- and probably never will be. For all the controversy he has endured, Ewing left the college game as he should, with a finger shooting skyward.

Reflecting the other day, Thompson said that while he and Ewing were walking not long ago, he remarked: "Kid, I sure feel sorry for you."

"Why?" Ewing said.

"I told him that if he's got a problem, it's that he's such a private person. But he's very strong in his convictions. He's had so much pressure on him; he always will."