Montevallo Denied Title in Championship Bid
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, KY – Western Washington shot 54% from the field and survived several Montevallo comeback attempts to beat the Falcons 72-65 in the Division II National Championship game on Saturday. Montevallo, making their first appearance in the title game, finishes a remarkable season with a 29-8 overall record. Western Washington takes their first title and improves to 31-5.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair that featured four ties and 12 lead changes. Montevallo struggled with their shot, but dominated the glass, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the first five minutes of the game. Those second-chance opportunities led to an 11-5 lead, but Western Washington came back with three-pointers from Chris Mitchell and John Allen to take a 12-11 lead.
The two teams traded one- and two-point margins for the next 10 minutes until the Vikings strung together back-to-back field goals to go up by three and led at the half 30-26.
That lead grew to seven coming out of the gate in the second half as Chris Mitchell hit a three on WWU’s first possession, but would grow no more as Montevallo answered with a 14-2 run over the next five minutes that gave them a five-point lead. Antoine Davis and D.J. Rivera were the architects of the run, scoring 10 of the 14 points between them while DeMarcus Catchings added the other four.
Western Washington came back and took the lead 41-40 on a three by Mitchell and, following buckets from Rivera and Catchings, tied it up again a 44 on a three by Paul Jones with 12:21 left.
Rivera’s layup at 13:10 would begin a three-minute scoring draught for the Falcons, allowing the Vikings to open up a three-point lead. UM cut the lead back to one at 9:14 on a remarkable Davis up-and-under layup. But the Falcons would get no closer.
Western Washington put the game away with a 12-1 run over the next three minutes that featured three-pointers from Mitchell and Jones. In fact, the Vikings hit seven straight from the field and eight of their final nine field goal attempts of the game. The lead hit 12 on two occasions, the last on a Rory Blanche jumper with 5:04 to play.
Montevallo, who trailed in the second half of their previous two games of the Elite Eight, came back with a Rivera breakaway dunk and layup surrounding a bucket from Drico Hightower to cut the lead to six with 3:46 to play.
The lead was down to four with 58 seconds left after Davis hit a free throw for the Falcons, but John Allen hit four straight free throws for the Vikings to keep Montevallo at bay. UM missed three three-point attempts in the final 23 seconds.
Western Washington shot an incredible 54% (27-50) from the field including nine of their 19 three-point attempts (.474). Montevallo struggled with their shot, hitting at a 37% rate (24-64) and 4-for-15 from three-point range, including 1-for-9 in the second half. The Falcons also had problems at the free throw line, hitting 56% (13-23).
D.J. Rivera once again led the Falcons as he was the highest scorer on the floor with 20 points. Davis added 16 while Hightower had nine points and nine rebounds. Catchings came off the bench to lead the Falcons with 11 boards and added eight points. Montevallo outrebounded the Vikings 39-35 but held a commanding 20-9 edge on offensive rebounds.
John Allen led the five Vikings who scored in double figures with 14 points. Mitchell added 13 while Zach Henifin had 12 and Richard Woodworth 10 points and nine rebounds. Western Washington did not fare much better at the free throw line, hitting only half of their 18 attempts.