2012 National Champions! WWU defeats Montevallo, 72-65, for NCAA II title

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

March 24, 2012

WWU WINS 2012 NCAA II NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPGet Acrobat Reader

WWU 72, Montevallo 65


John Allen scores two of his team-high 14 points to lead five Western players in double figures.
The Vikings captured their first national championship in program history.

Road to the Championship
Photo Gallery  | Box Score | Highlights

  WWU
Mont.
 Points 72 65
 FG Made-Attempted 27-50 24-64
 Field Goal Pct 54 37.5
 3P Made-Attempted 9-19 4-15
 3P Field Goal Pct 47.4 26.7
 FT Made-Attempted 9-18 13-23
 Free Throw Pct 50.0 56.5
 Rebounds (Off.) 35 (8) 39 (20)
 Assists 11 10
 Turnovers 14 11
 Individual Leaders
 Stat WWU
Mont.
 Points Allen - 14 Rivera - 20
 Rebounds Woodworth - 9 Hightower - 10
Catchings - 10
 Assists Woodworth - 4 Davis - 4
 Steals Blanche - 2
Wilkins - 2
Catchings - 2
Brown - 2
 Blocks Four with 1 Catchings - 1
Davis - 1

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - Western Washington University is the 2012 NCAA Division II men's basketball national champion.

The Vikings defeated Montevallo, Ala., 72-65, in the championship of the NCAA II Elite Eight on Saturday in a nationally televised contest at The Bank of Kentucky Center on the campus of host Northern Kentucky University.

Guard John Allen (Jr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace) led five WWU players in double figures with 14 points.

The Vikings, ranked No.12 in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches/NCAA II Top 25 Poll, concluded their season 31-5, posting the most victories in school history.

Montevallo fell to 29-8. Guard D.J. Rivera, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the Elite Eight, led the Falcons with a game-high 20 points.

"I'm very proud of our players, very excited for them," said WWU coach Brad Jackson (27th year). "They've worked very hard, they've maintained their focus throughout the year. They came here believing they could accomplish this."

WWU held a 33-26 lead early in the second half before Montevallo hit seven straight shots from the field to go on a 14-2 run and take a 40-35 lead with 15:20 to play.

But the Vikings immediately responded with a run of their own, putting together a 14-4 charge in less than five minutes to go ahead, 49-44, with 10 minutes left, and eventually extending the margin to 61-49 on a three-pointer by Paul Jones (Jr., Kent/Kent-Meridian) with 6:19 left.

"They had not shot it well the whole tournament and tonight they shot it really well," said Montevallo coach Danny Young of WWU's hot stretch. "It got to be one time there when they were really rolling, even if you had your hand up it didn't matter. It was going in."

Forward Zach Henifin (Sr., Bellingham) and center Chris Mitchell (Jr., Everson/Nooksack Valley) played a key role in building the lead, combining for 20 of WWU's first 26 points of the second half.

The Vikings, who shot 54 percent (27-of-50) from the field, led the rest of the way. Montevallo pulled to within four on a free throw by Antoine Davis, who finished with 16 points, with 58.3 seconds left, but got no closer.

"We've had other teams that had a lot of blowout wins, and we didn't have many of those this year," said Jackson, who claimed his 500th career victory (current total 518) earlier this season. "But we were good down the stretch of games, and it built a lot of confidence that we could get the job done."

Mitchell finished 13 points, Henifin had 12. Jones and guard Richard Woodworth (So., Bellevue/Newport) each had 10 points, and forward Rory Blanche (Sr., Ashland, OR) added nine. Woodworth also had team-highs of nine rebounds and four assists.

"(Montevallo) is a tremendous team with tremendous athletes," Woodworth said. "They made a run or two, but our guys never got down, we still had confidence and really felt we were going to pull it out."

The first half was tightly contested, with no lead larger than five points. Montevallo held a 23-21 lead after a Rivera three-pointer with 6:21 left in the period, but the Vikings held the Falcons without a field goal the rest of the half and took a 30-26 lead at halftime after a jumper by Rico Wilkins (Jr., Dallas, TX/DeSoto) at the buzzer.

In all, the contest featured 16 lead changes, 12 in the first half, and five ties.

WWU held an opponent under 41 percent field goal shooting for the fifth straight game, as Montevallo shot just 37.5 percent (24-of-64) from the floor. The Falcons did have a 39-35 advantage in rebounds, grabbing 20 of their boards at the offensive end.

"We just couldn't get anything going," said Young. "We got a lot of attempts at the basket from five feet away and couldn't put it in the hole. (Western) played great, they deserve all the credit. That's just how it went."

It was just the second trip to the NCAA II Elite Eight for the Vikings, who reached the national semifinals in 2001. It was, however, the fourth straight time a West Region representative played in the championship contest. Cal Poly Pomona reached the title game in 2009 and won it in 2010, and BYU-Hawaii reached the final last season.

The championship is the first NCAA basketball title at any level for a school from the state of Washington since University of Puget Sound won the NCAA II title in 1976.

The Vikings return to Bellingham on Sunday, landing at Bellingham International Airport on a charter flight at about 2 p.m.

Western Washington claims Division II national title with 72-65 win over Montevallo (Ala.)

Western Washington won the NCAA Division II title on Saturday

By Terry Boehmker

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - With brightly colored confetti cascading around them, Western Washington basketball players raised the championship trophy above their heads after winning the team's first NCAA Division II national title on Saturday at Northern Kentucky University.

The Vikings held off a late charge and defeated Montevallo (Ala.), 72-65, in the nationally televised game to cap off a 31-5 season when they also set a team record for most wins.

"I don't know if it's sunk in all the way yet, but it's a pretty incredible feeling," said Western junior guard Richard Woodworth. "At the start of the season, we set a goal that we wanted to go to the national tournament and we wanted to win a national championship. We felt we were capable of doing that. It feels real nice knowing we were able to accomplish that goal."

The Vikings, ranked No. 12 in the final Division II national coaches poll, won the West Region title to earn their first trip to the Elite Eight since 2001.

Western coach Brad Jackson was battling the flu when the team arrived in Kentucky for the eight-team national finals earlier this week. But he was feeling better than ever after Saturday's championship game.

"I'm just really pleased for these current players," said Jackson, who is in his 27th season as Western's head coach. "I'm very proud of these guys. They've worked very hard and really listened. But I'm also really thrilled for the other players that have gone before us. We've had some really, really good teams through the years that haven't made it this far, obviously."

The Vikings won the championship game with the same balanced offensive effort that helped them win their first two Elite Eight games. They had five double-figure scorers and shot 54 percent (27 of 50) from the field against Montevallo.

Western's scoring leader was junior guard John Allen with 14 points. Woodworth also had an exceptional game, finishing with 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

Western senior forward Rory Blanche was limited to nine points, seven below his team-leading 16.1 average.

"I don't know if you could say I led this team," Woodworth said. "It was as total team effort. We had five guys score in double figures and our leading scorer wasn't one of those, but we were still able to pull it out."

With a small group of Western fans seated behind the team bench for the championship game, there were four ties and 12 lead changes during the first half that ended with the Vikings holding a slim 30-26 lead.

Western went on a 9-3 scoring spurt in the final six minutes of the half. Woodworth hit a 3-pointer to get it started and junior forward Paul Jones, who wasn't in the starting lineup, scored twice during that spurt.

Most of Montevallo's first-half points were scored by guards Ryan May, Antoine Davis and D.J. Rivera. But they weren't having much success attacking the basket like they did in their team's two previous Elite Eight games.

That changed in the opening minutes of the second half as Montevallo's guards scored 10 points in the paint during a run that put the Falcons ahead, 40-35, at the 15:21 mark.

But Western responded with a rally of its own. After tying the score at 44-44 on a 3-pointer by Jones, the Vikings went on a 17-5 run and took their biggest lead of the game when Jones hit another trey that made it 61-49 with 6:18 left on the clock.

Montevallo coach Danny Young was impressed with the Vikings' second-half surge.

"They had not shot it well the whole tournament and tonight they shot it really well," Young said. "It got to be one time there when they were really rolling. Even if you had your hand up it didn't matter, it was going in."

Montevallo made a late charge and cut the margin to 70-65 with 28 seconds remaining after Western committed turnovers on four possessions.

"There were a couple of strange calls at the end, but we were able to stick it out and handle the pressure," Blanche said.

After Allen made two free throws with 19 seconds left to give the Vikings a seven-point margin, Montevallo missed its last three field goal attempts.

The Falcons made 15 of 31 shots in the second half, but they ended up shooting 37.5 percent (24 of 64) for the game.

"(Western) made some really tough shots, especially down the stretch right there, and we just couldn't get anything going," Young said. "We got a lot of attempts at the basket from five feet away and couldn't put it in the hole."

Rivera scored a game-high 20 points for Montevallo and was named the Elite Eight's most valuable player. But the quick guard was 7-of-18 from the field because he had a hard time driving to the basket for most of the game.

"I thought they did a good job helping (on defense)," Rivera said. "We just couldn't find the rim today and make shots."

The Western team will return home Sunday on a charter flight that's scheduled to land at Bellingham International Airport at 2 p.m. (PDT).

Senior forward Zach Henifin is looking forward to stepping off the plane with a championship trophy among the team's carry-on baggage.

"It feels amazing, but it's going to feel that much better when we get back home with the whole family and celebrate," Henifin said.

Western Washington men win first NCAA Division II championship

John Allen scored 14 points to lead five double-figure scorers for the Vikings, who defeated Montevallo of Alabama 72-65 in Saturday's championship game

By Terry Boehmker, Special to The Seattle Times

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- Western Washington men's basketball coach Brad Jackson was battling the flu when his team arrived at the NCAA Division II Elite Eight earlier this week, but he was feeling better than ever when the Vikings carried off the championship trophy Saturday at Northern Kentucky University.

Western Washington defeated Montevallo of Alabama, 72-65, in the championship game to claim its first national championship and cap a 31-5 campaign that set a team record for wins in a season.

"I'm just really pleased for these current players," said Jackson, who is in his 27th season as WWU coach. "I'm very proud of these guys. They've worked very hard and really listened. But I'm also really thrilled for the other players that have gone before us. We've had some really, really good teams through the years that haven't made it this far, obviously."

The Vikings won the championship game with another balanced offensive effort. They had five double-figure scorers and shot 54 percent (27 of 50) from the field.

Western's scoring leader was junior guard John Allen, with 14 points. He got four of the team's last five points to secure the victory.

Western's other starting guard, junior Richard Woodworth, finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

Montevallo guard DJ Rivera scored a game-high 20 points and was named most valuable player in the Elite Eight playoffs.

A small group of Vikings fans were seated behind the team bench for the championship game, which had four ties and 12 lead changes during a first half that ended with WWU holding a 30-26 lead.

Western Washington went on a 9-3 run in the final six minutes of the half. Woodworth hit a three-pointer to get it started and junior forward Paul Jones scored twice during that spurt.

At the break, Woodward had seven points, six rebounds and three assists for the Vikings, who shot 50 percent (13 of 26) in the first half compared to Montevallo's 27.3 percent (9 of 33).

Most of Montevallo's first-half points were scored by guards Ryan May, Antoine Davis and Rivera. But they weren't having as much success attacking the basket as they did in their two previous Elite Eight games.

That changed early in the second half, as Montevallo's guards scored 10 points in the paint during a 14-5 run that put the Falcons ahead 40-35 at the 15:21 mark.

But Western responded with a rally of its own. After tying the score at 44 on a three-pointer by Jones, the Vikings went on a 17-5 run and took their biggest lead of the game when Jones hit another trey that made it 61-49 with 6:18 left.

Montevallo made a late charge and cut the margin to 70-65 with 28 seconds remaining after Western Washington committed turnovers on four possessions.

After Allen made two free throws with 19 seconds left to give the Vikings a seven-point lead, Montevallo missed its last three field-goal attempts.

Montevallo made 15 of 31 shots in the second half and ended up shooting 37.5 percent (24 of 64) for the game.

Western Washington men win first NCAA Division II championship

John Allen scored 14 points to lead five double-figure scorers for the Vikings, who defeated Montevallo of Alabama 72-65 in Saturday's championship game.

By Terry Boehmker, Special to The Seattle Times

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- With brightly colored confetti cascading around them, Western Washington basketball players raised the championship trophy above their heads after winning the team's first NCAA Division II national basketball title on Saturday at Northern Kentucky University.

The Vikings held off a late charge and defeated Montevallo of Alabama 72-65 to cap a 31-5 season when they also set a team record for most wins.

"I don't know if it's sunk in all the way yet, but it's a pretty incredible feeling," said Western junior guard Richard Woodworth. "At the start of the season, we set a goal that we wanted to go to the national tournament and we wanted to win a national championship. We felt we were capable of doing that. It feels real nice knowing we were able to accomplish that goal."

The Vikings, ranked No. 12 in the final Division II national coaches poll, won the West Region title to earn their first trip to the Elite Eight since 2001.

Western coach Brad Jackson was battling the flu when the team arrived in Kentucky earlier this week. But he was feeling better than ever after the championship game.

"I'm just really pleased for these current players," said Jackson, who is in his 27th season as Western's coach. "I'm very proud of these guys. They've worked very hard and really listened. But I'm also really thrilled for the other players that have gone before us. We've had some really, really good teams through the years that haven't made it this far, obviously."

The Vikings won the championship game with the same balanced offensive effort that helped them win their first two Elite Eight games. They had five double-figure scorers and shot 54 percent (27 of 50) from the field against Montevallo.

Western's scoring leader was junior guard John Allen with 14 points. Woodworth also had an exceptional game, finishing with 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

Western senior forward Rory Blanche was limited to nine points, seven below his team-leading 16.1 average.

"I don't know if you could say I led this team," Woodworth said. "It was a total team effort. We had five guys score in double figures and our leading scorer wasn't one of those, but we were still able to pull it out."

With a small group of Western fans seated behind the team bench for the championship game, there were four ties and 12 lead changes during the first half that ended with the Vikings holding a 30-26 lead.

Western went on a 9-3 scoring spurt in the final six minutes of the half. Woodworth hit a three-pointer to get it started and junior forward Paul Jones, who wasn't in the starting lineup, scored twice.

Most of Montevallo's first-half points were scored by guards Ryan May, Antoine Davis and D.J. Rivera. But they weren't having much success attacking the basket like they did in their team's two previous Elite Eight games.

That changed in the opening minutes of the second half as Montevallo's guards scored 10 points in the paint during a run that put the Falcons ahead 40-35 at the 15:21 mark.

But Western responded with a rally of its own. After tying the score at 44 on a three-pointer by Jones, the Vikings went on a 17-5 run and took their biggest lead when Jones hit another trey that made it 61-49 with 6:18 left.

Montevallo coach Danny Young was impressed with the Vikings' second-half surge.

"They had not shot it well the whole tournament, and tonight they shot it really well," Young said. "It got to be one time there when they were really rolling. Even if you had your hand up it didn't matter, it was going in."

Montevallo made a late charge and cut the margin to 70-65 with 28 seconds remaining after Western committed turnovers on four possessions.

"There were a couple of strange calls at the end, but we were able to stick it out and handle the pressure," Blanche said.

After Allen made two free throws with 19 seconds left to give the Vikings a seven-point margin, Montevallo missed its last three field-goal attempts.

The Falcons made 15 of 31 shots in the second half, but they ended up shooting 37.5 percent (24 of 64) for the game.

"(Western) made some really tough shots, especially down the stretch right there, and we just couldn't get anything going," Young said. "We got a lot of attempts at the basket from 5 feet away and couldn't put it in the hole."

Rivera scored a game-high 20 points for Montevallo and was named the Elite Eight's most valuable player. But the quick guard was 7 of 18 from the field because he had a hard time driving to the basket for most of the game.

"I thought they did a good job helping (on defense)," Rivera said. "We just couldn't find the rim today and make shots."

Western will return home Sunday on a charter flight that's scheduled to land at Bellingham International Airport at 2 p.m.

Senior forward Zach Henifin is looking forward to stepping off the plane with a championship trophy among the team's carry-on baggage.

"It feels amazing, but it's going to feel that much better when we get back home with the whole family and celebrate," Henifin said.

Vikings win NCAA Div. II National title

Sports Desk - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - The men's basketball team farthest from home won the NCAA Division II national championship Saturday, March 24, when the road warriors of Western Washington ran over Montevallo 72-65 in the NCAA Division II National Championship at Northern Kentucky University.

More than a dozen busloads of Montevallo fans caravanned to the game and Falcons supporters made up the majority of the 3,589 in attendance. They stood on their feet the entire game. Enough flew in on late plane rides from the Pacific Northwest to give Western Washington the feeling it was not alone in its quest for a crown.

"We had a lot of folks who jumped on planes to get to the game," coach Brad Jackson said. "We always feel like we're supported."

And there was that Viking painted on the court at NKU's Bank of Kentucky Center, home of the Norse. It was enough to make Western Washington feel downright cozy in front of a national television audience.

Viewers got an eyeful of the Vikings, who headed back to Bellingham with their first national championship.

"It won't sink in until I get back," said senior Zach Henifin, one of five Viking scorers in double-figures with 12 points. "It will feel a lot better when we get home to family and celebrate. We're gonna bring it all back to Bellingham."

The celebration started Saturday at midcourt, just a few feet away from that Viking, when the final buzzer sounded. Western Washington players jumped into each other's arms, hugged and chest-bumped while confetti fell from the rafters and covered the floor.

"It's pretty surreal. That's about as good as it gets," said junior Richard Woodworth, who had 10 points and nine rebounds and was named all-tournament along with senior teammate Rory Blanche, who scored nine.

John Allen led with 14 and fellow junior Chris Mitchell finished with 13. Paul Jones had 10 off the bench. Western Washington (30-5), ranked No. 12 in the NABC D-II poll, shot 54 percent from the floor and held a fifth consecutive opponent to less than 40 percent. Montevallo (29-8), ranked No. 22, shot 37.5 percent.

"They made a bunch of shots and we missed a lot of defensive assignments," Montevallo coach Danny Young said.

"I think they did a good job helping on defense," Montevallo's consensus All-America D.J. Rivera said of the Vikings' ability to take away the lane. "We just didn't have enough room."

Rivera, who scored a game-high 20, was named tournament most outstanding player.

"I'd trade it for a national championship," he said.

The Vikings were in no mood to barter. They battled, and basked in the glow of their accomplishment.

"Obviously, we're thrilled," coach Jackson said.

The trip to Kentucky was the longest of the Vikings' season that also included trips to Alaska, Southern California and Nevada.

"Pretty much everywhere we go is east," Jackson said. "We travel a lot, and it's hard traveling in our part of the country."

The Vikings, almost invincible at home at 17-1, finished 14-4 elsewhere.

"Maybe the biggest thing that sticks out to me is their toughness," Jackson said of his players. "They have a mental fortitude and tenacity to hang in there in games."

There were five tie scores and 16 lead changes Saturday. But Western's tall defenders kept stepping into passing lanes and taking away the drive-and-dish, causing the Falcons to get out of rhythm. The Vikings held Montevallo post players Drico Hightower and Marvin Fitzgerald to a combined 3-for-17 shooting. Hightower finished with nine points; Fitzgerald was held scoreless.

"We weren't very good at reversing the ball, which we've done a good job with," Young said. "We wanted to reverse it and let our athleticism take over and get back doors. When we got away from it, we panicked a bit."

Western led 30-26 at halftime. At one point, 11 consecutive baskets either tied the score or changed the lead. Five times it shifted on 3-pointers. The Vikings played with the lead for much of the second half and led 63-51 with 5:36 to go.

Montevallo responded with an 8-2 run to cut it to six. The Falcons got a steal but lost possession when the ball went out of bounds. The teams exchanged turnovers coming out of a timeout, then Allen hit a basket in the lane to put the Vikings up by eight. Allen hit four straight free throws in the final 50 seconds to seal it.

Western Washington beats Montevallo for D-II title

Allen, who played at Mountlake terrace, scores 14 points as Vikings win 72-65

Everett Herald

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- Five players in double figures, and that didn't even include the leading scorer for the season. Pretty much sums up how Western Washington got to its first title game and won it.

It took everybody, and then some.

John Allen, who played at Mountlake Terrace high School, scored 14 points and the Vikings' balanced offense carried them to a 72-65 victory over Montevallo, Ala., on Saturday in the Division II championship at Northern Kentucky University.

When the buzzer sounded on yet another close win -- this one the biggest of them all -- Western Washington's players hugged at midcourt while strands of blue, yellow and orange confetti fell from the ceiling and covered the court.

Everyone got showered in small strips of colored paper.

"It's pretty surreal," said Richard Woodworth, who had 10 points. "That's about as good as it gets -- five players in double figures and our leading scorer is not one of them."

Rory Blanche, who led the Vikings (31-5) to the title game by averaging 16.1 points, hit a couple of baskets early, then blended in with an offense that went 9 of 19 from behind the 3-point arc and shot 54 percent from the field.

"It's like a lot of games we've had this year," coach Brad Jackson said, after setting the commemorative net next to his microphone at the interview table. "This team has been a true team in their balance.

"Maybe the biggest thing that sticks out to me is their toughness. They have a mental fortitude and tenacity to hang in there in games."

After moving ahead by 12 points, they finished it off behind Allen, one of the nation's most accurate free throw shooters at 88.7 percent. He made four in a row to end Montevallo's late comeback.

"I had to watch from the end of the bench and I was way more nervous down there," said Zach Henifin, who scored eight points during a decisive 17-4 run before fouling out.

After getting their championship caps and shirts, the Vikings saw a blue-and-white banner lowered from above their basket that said: "Western Washington 2012." They'll pack that along with the net for the trip back to Bellingham.

"It's a great feeling that we brought one back to the West Coast, to the Pacific Northwest," said Blanche, who finished with nine points.

Both teams were making their first title-game appearances. Western Washington lost in the semifinals in 2001. Montevallo (29-8) reached the round of eight in 2006 and 2007, losing its opening game both times.

D.J. Rivera led Montevallo with 20 points. Antoine Davis added 16 in a guard-driven offense that got very little from its front line.

Montevallo knocked off defending champion Bellarmine in the semifinals behind Rivera, who's tough to keep out of the lane because of his quickness. Rivera shoots left-handed, just like his uncle, the late Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount.

Rivera also has experience in the NCAA's biggest tournament. He was part of the team that took Binghamton to its first NCAA Division I tournament in 2009, and scored 20 points in a first-round loss to Duke. The program then imploded, with coach Kevin Broadus suspended for recruiting violations and six players kicked off the team, including Rivera.

Western Washington didn't let him take over the title game.

"They did a good job helping (on defense)," Rivera said. "We couldn't make shots."

Western Washington denied the Falcons' guards open lanes to the basket in the first half, cutting them off whenever they headed inside. Instead, the Vikings got the more deliberate pace they preferred and a back-and-forth game that was tight most of the way through -- five ties, 16 lead changes.

Rico Wilkins leaned over Rivera and hit a jumper from just inside the arc with 1 second left in the half, giving Western Washington a 30-26 lead. Rivera was only 2 of 8 from the field in the first half for nine points.

The Falcons got their fast break moving in the second half. Rivera drove for a left-handed scoop shot, and Davis had a fast-break layup during an 8-0 run that put Montevallo up 40-35 early in the second half. The Falcons needed their guards to have a big game -- forwards Drico Hightower and Marvin Fitzgerald missed 14 of their 17 shots combined.

This lead didn't last long. Western Washington responded with the decisive run.

"They just made a bunch of shots," Montevallo coach Danny Young said. "They made some really tough shots, especially down the stretch. And we couldn't get anything going. We had a lot of attempts from 5 feet away and we couldn't put it in the basket."

Henifin scored eight points during the decisive run that gave Western Washington the first double-digit lead of the game, 61-49 with 6:17 left. Henifin also picked up his fourth foul during the run.

Montevallo went to a pressure defense that changed the momentum again. Rivera had a couple of baskets and a free throw, Jonas Brown made a 3, and Antoine Davis' free throw cut it to 68-64 with 58 seconds left.

Allen finished it off, making four in a row on consecutive trips to the line in the final 49 seconds.

07/03/2014

Heart of the Game