Defending champ Western edges SPU, returns to Elite Eight | NCAA Division II men's basketball
Western Washington defeated rival Seattle Pacific 62-58 to win the West Region and earn a return trip to the Elite Eight.
Special to The Seattle Times
BELLINGHAM — Defending national champion Western Washington defeated rival Seattle Pacific 62-58 Tuesday night to win the West Region and earn a trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
The fourth-ranked Vikings (30-2) play Florida Southern (27-5) at 11 a.m. March 28 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. The Vikings finished 17-0 at Carver Gym this season.
No. 2 Seattle Pacific (27-4) came up short to the host Vikings in the West Regional final for the second straight year.
A dunk from Western Washington sophomore forward Anye Turner gave the Vikings a 58-57 lead with 2:29 remaining, and they never trailed again.
A steal by Vikings senior guard Rico Wilkins in the final 10 seconds and two free throws from Richard Woodworth with 7.7 seconds sealed the victory for Western Washington.
Woodworth, who scored 15 points, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
"We weren't really clicking offensively," Woodworth said. "I just tried to be aggressive, step up. I felt like that was something we really needed and if I could score a couple points that might get us going."
Cameron Severson scored 14 points for Western, and Turner had 10, getting eight of those in the final six minutes.
Patrick Simon led the Falcons with 14 points and also had five assists. Jobi Wall had 11 points, and Andy Poling and Cory Hutsen each scored 10.
The fourth meeting this season between the rivals lived up to the previous three. The Vikings claimed two regular-season victories, winning at Seattle 66-56 and at Bellingham 83-76 in overtime. The Falcons earned a 72-70 victory in the GNAC championship game in Lacey.
Tuesday night, the score was tied seven times, and the lead changed 10 times.
Seattle Pacific came out strong defensively and kept John Allen, Western Washington's West Region Player of the Year, to just six points.
Seattle Pacific led most of the first half, pushing it to six points on two occasions, the last time at 27-21 with 4:20 left when David Downs stole the ball, went downcourt and made a three-pointer.
Western cut it to 29-28 on a tip-in by Severson 1:01 before the intermission and had a chance to take the lead, but couldn't get a shot off before the shot clock expired.