Woodworth leads Western Washington to Round of 16 victory, Elite Eight berth
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Tourney Most Outstanding Player Richard Woodworth had a team-high 15 points, including two game-clinching free throws with 7.7 seconds left, lifting defending national champion Western Washington to a 62-58 victory against Seattle Pacific on Tuesday in the championship game of the West Regional of the 2013 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament before a crowd of 2,521 at Sam Carver Gymnasium on the campus of host Western Washington.
The Vikings, ranked No.4 in this week's NABC NCAA Division II National Top 25 Poll and the No.1 seed in the West Regional, improved to 30-2 overall and face South Region champion Florida Southern, a 90-88 winner Tuesday against Alabama Huntsville, in a national quarterfinal at Louisville, Ky., on Thurs., March 28.
SPU, the No.3 seed but ranked No.2 nationally, completed its season 27-4. Forward Patrick Simon had 14 points and five assists for the Falcons, and forward Jobi Wall added 11 points.
Simon had given SPU a 57-56 lead on a 3-pointer with 2:57 left. But Anye Turner gave WWU the lead with a dunk off a feed from Cameron Severson. Severson then hit a jumper with 1:44 left to push the margin to three, 60-57.
Wall made one of two free throws with 51.9 seconds left, and the Falcons got the ball back with 15 seconds left down only two, but WWU guard Rico Wilkins forced a steal near midcourt with nine seconds left, and Woodworth then made two free throws for the final margin.
Severson came off the bench to contribute 14 points, five rebounds and four assists on 7-of-10 shooting; and Turner had 10 points, nine of them in the last seven minutes, for just his second double-figure scoring effort of the season.
SPU led by as much as eight in the first half, and buoyed by hitting five of their first eight 3-point shots, held a 27-21 lead with just a little more than four minutes left in the half. But the Vikings closed the period with a 7-2 run to narrow the Falcon lead to 29-28 at halftime.
Neither team had a lead of more than four points in the second half.
It was the second consecutive year the two schools met in the West Region championship. WWU claimed a 56-50 triumph in Bellingham in 2012. The Vikings' only other regional title was in 2001.
The triumph was the 27th in a row at home for WWU, extending its Great Northwest Athletic Conference record. The Vikings finished a perfect 17-0 at Carver Gym this season.
Joining Woodworth on the all-tournament team were Wall and Simon of SPU, WWU guard John Allenand Kwame Alexander of Cal State San Bernardino.
WWU and SPU had already met three times this season prior to Tuesday. The Vikings claimed two regular-season triumphs, winning at Seattle, 66-56, on Jan. 3; and at Bellingham, 83-76, in overtime, on Feb. 2; but the Falcons claimed a 72-70 triumph in the GNAC championship game at Lacey on Mar. 9.
It is the second consecutive season that WWU has won 30 or more games, the only two in school history.