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NCAA DIVISION 2 MEN’S FINAL

Western Washington keeps its balance and captures crown

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.

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John Allen scored 14 points and the Vikings’ balanced offense carried them to a 72-65 victory over Montevallo, Ala., Saturday in the Division 2 championship at Northern Kentucky University.

When the buzzer sounded on 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.

After moving ahead by 12 points, the Vikings 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 8 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 9 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 and Antoine Davis added 16 in a guard-oriented offense.

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