NCAA SEMIFINALS: #12 Western Washington Stops Stonehill Run, 71-66

Junior Brian Hamor led the Skyhawks with 22 points and five assists tonight. (PHOTO BY Tim Patrick)

Skyhawks comeback from 20 points down in the second half comes up just short

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (March 22, 2012) – Western Washington University, ranked 12th in the NABC Division II poll, withstood a gallant Stonehill College comeback from a 20 point second half deficit to claim a 71-66 victory in the national semifinals of the 2012 NCAA Division II Elite Eight, hosted by Northern Kentucky University, at The Bank of Kentucky Center tonight.

Western Washington (30-5, 16-3 GNAC) advances to Saturday's National Championship where it will face No. 22 University of Montevallo (29-7) at 1 p.m. Montevallo advanced with a 79-72 upset of defending national champion and 4th-ranked Bellarmine University. Stonehill sees its outstanding season come to an end with a 25-9 record overall, including a 15-7 clip in the Northeast-10, having captured its fourth NE-10 Tournament title and second East Regional championship and trip to the Elite Eight and national semifinals in program history.

Senior Rory Blanche (Ashland, Ore./Ashland) led four Western Washington players in double figures with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, draining his lone three point attempt, and converting 1-of-2 free-throws to go with six rebounds and two assists. Classmate Zach Henifin (Bellingham, Wash./Bellingham) notched a double-double with ten points and a game-high 12 rebounds with three assists, five steals and two blocked shots.

Junior John Allen (Brier, Wash./Mountlake Terrace) contributed 13 points, while classmate Richard Woodworth (Bellevue, Wash./Newport) finished with 12 points, nine boards and three steals.

Junior Brian Hamor (Schenectady, N.Y./Bishop Gibbons) led Stonehill with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the field and a 6-for-7 effort at the free-throw line with five assists. Senior Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius) finished with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including a three-pointer from just inside half court at the buzzer, and converting his lone free-throw, with a team-high matching six rebounds. Junior Adam Fazzini (Drums, Pa./Crestwood) chipped in eight points, aided by 2-of-5 from beyond the arc, and two boards, while senior Andre Tongo (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxborough) posted seven points, six boards, four steals and three assists.

Senior Patrick Lee capped his outstanding career with 14 points and six rebounds. (PHOTO BY Tim Patrick)

Western Washington shot 47.4-percent (27-for-57) from the field and converted 12-of-15 (80%) free-throw attempts on the night. The Vikings posted a 39-29 rebounding advantage on the night, but second chance points finished even at 10-10. Stonehill finished shooting 40.4-percent (23-for-57) from the field after shooting 30.8% (8-for-26) in the first half to fall behind by ten (32-22) at the half. The Skyhawks rallied to shoot 48.4% (15-for-31) in the second half, but just 4-for-13 (30.8%) from beyond the arc, and also made 12-of-15 (80%) free-throws.

Stonehill trailed by 20 (47-27) after a tip-in by Woodworth with 13:22 to play, but wouldn't go down without a fight. A tip-in from Lee sparked a 14-3 run that pulled the Skyhawks within nine (50-41) after a Hamor three-pointer with 8:02 remaining. Freshman Jack Cole (New Providence, N.J./New Providence) netted four points during the run, while Tongo also canned a three.

Blanche scored a layup to bump the lead back to 11 (52-41) with seven minutes left, but Stonehill kept chipping away, drawing within six (52-46) after two Tongo free-throws with 5:32 left. Western Washington regained a nine point lead (59-50) with a free-throw by junior Rico Wilkins (Dallas, Texas/DeSoto) with 3:50 remaining.

Stonehill closed within four (61-57) with a Fazzini three with 1:23 left, but could get no closer as Western got a layup late in the shot clock by Allen and then the Vikings drained their next seven free-throws to help stave off the rally. Lee, who hit a running three-pointer from just inside half court to win a game at Le Moyne College in 2011 that was featured as the top play by ESPN's SportsCenter, capped the scoring with another three from nearly the same spot at the buzzer tonight.

Stonehill held the early momentum in the contest, jumping out to a 7-2 lead after a Lee layup prior to the first media timeout. The Skyhawks lead extended to 11-4 after a Fazzini three with 14:26, but Western Washington responded with a 16-0 run to take a nine point lead (20-11) after a Woodworth layup with 8:27 left in the half.

Western Washington extended the lead to 12 (28-16) after a conventional three-point play by Henifin with 5:51 left in the half. The Vikings took a ten point (32-22) lead into halftime, answering a three by Hamor and three point play by junior Raheem May-Thompson (London, England/Towson (Md.) Catholic). WWU opened the second half with a 15-5 run to take its game-high 20 point lead (47-27) after a Woodworth tip-in with 13:22 to play.