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Western Washington men win NCAA D-II national basketball 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.

John Allen scored 14 points and the Vikings’ balanced offense carried them to a 72-65 victory over Montevallo, Ala., on Saturday in the Division II men’s basketball 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.

“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.

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.