BELLINGHAM - It's anybody's guess.
One night it's John Allen's turn, another night Paul Jones shoulders the scoring load. During WWU's West Regional first-round game, Chris Mitchell and Austin Bragg were key contributors.
Richard Woodworth and Rico Wilkins provided the Vikings their spark against Cal State San Bernardino on Monday, March 18, and helped Western march on to the NCAA Division II West Regional final with an 86-77 win at Carver Gym.
"We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of things," WWU coach Tony Dominguez said. "Any given night Rico, Rich have the ability. Rich is kind of our multi-purpose guy. He's our steadying force."
Woodworth stabilized the Vikings while Western slogged through a first half that included several offensive and defensive lapses. Western's do-everything player scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the first 20 minutes, hitting three 3-pointers.
Wilkins took over in the second half where Woodworth left off in the first.
Cal State San Bernardino guard Lacy Haddock, a transfer from Central Washington, scored 15 points in the first half, but Wilkins helped limit him to five after halftime.
Wilkins, who finished with 16 points, including two key buckets in the final 10 minutes, gave Western a big lift on the offensive end, too.
"When I come in, I just try to bring energy," Wilkins said. "When I came in tonight, I was thinking to not do too much. I was just trying to bring energy to the game. Everything was coming pretty easy. We were moving the ball well and getting easy shots. It turned out pretty good for us."
The "good" just had to wait until late in the second half.
Two days after playing Chaminade - a team without a true post presence that loves to get up-and-down - the Vikings found themselves battling 6-foot-7 forward Kwame Alexander, who finished with a game-high 28 points.
Western couldn't find a defensive answer, and Mitchell, Bragg and Damien Fisher all took turns trying to slow down the Coyotes' big man. Alexander got his points, but his efforts alone weren't enough to slow WWU's team rebounding.
The Vikings out rebounded Cal State San Bernardino 39-19 and 21-6 on the offensive glass. Bragg and Mitchell each had five offensive boards.
"Defense and rebounding wins," Dominguez said. "San Bernardino is one of our rivalries in the NCAA Tournament over the years. They've always been a more physical team than us, and this year we don't feel like that is the case. Besides Kwame, we felt like we should dominate the glass, and that was huge. I think that's why we came out victorious."
Western led by no more than five points in the first half. Wilkins made a pair of free throws to give WWU a 39-35 halftime edge. CSUSB started the second half on an 8-0 run to take the lead, and both teams exchanged buckets during the next 10 minutes. Neither team lead by more than four points until Western used an 11-3 second-half scoring run that lasted from 8:54 to 4:43. Wilkins capped the run with a clutch jumper to give the Vikings a 72-63 lead.
Severson, who finished with eight points, added a jumper followed by Wilkins layup that all but sealed the game.
"We have a lot of weapons on our team," Woodworth said. "We know anybody any given night can have a big night, and I have to give credit to all the other players on the court."
Allen, who scored 29 points during Western's opening-round game last Friday, scored 17 points, and Jones scored 12 points and grabbed seven boards.
The win advances Western to the Sweet 16, where it meets GNAC rival Seattle Pacific at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at Carver Gym. It'll be the fourth game this year between the Interstate-5 rivals. Western won the two regular season matchups, but SPU beat the Vikings on a buzzer beater to win the GNAC Tournament title a week and a half ago.
It is the first time the Western men and women have reached the regional finals in the same season.
WESTERN WASHINGTON 86, CSU SAN BERNARDINO 77
CSU SAN BERNARDINO (20-9)
ALEXANDER, Kwame 10-16 8-10 28; HADDOCK, Lacy 8-13 2-3 20; GOINS, Brian 4-10 5-5 14; STATHAM, Taylor 3-4 1-2 9; GENEVO, Pablo 2-5 0-0 4; BELL, Johnny 1-3 0-0 2; GOUCH, Joshua 0-1 0-0 0; MARTINEZ, Juan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-52 16-20 77.
WESTERN WASHINGTON (29-2)
Woodworth,Richard 5-10 4-8 18; Allen,John 6-18 5-7 17; Wilkins,Rico 4-8 7-8 16; Jones,Paul 5-10 2-4 12; Severson,Cameron 4-6 0-0 8; Bragg,Austin 2-5 3-3 7; Mitchell,Chris 1-3 4-4 6; Turner,Anye 1-2 0-0 2; Fisher,Damien 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 25-34 86.
Half: WWU 39, CSUSB 35
3-point goals--CSU San Bernardino 5-12 (HADDOCK, Lacy 2-3; STATHAM, Taylor 2-2; GOINS, Brian 1-6; BELL, Johnny 0-1), Western Washington 5-15 (Woodworth,Richard 4-6; Wilkins,Rico 1-2; Severson,Cameron 0-1; Allen,John 0-6). Fouled out--CSU San Bernardino-GOUCH, Joshua, Western Washington-None. Rebounds--CSU San Bernardino 19 (ALEXANDER, Kwame 8), Western Washington 39 (Bragg,Austin 7; Jones,Paul 7). Assists--CSU San Bernardino 11 (GOINS, Brian 4), Western Washington 16 (Allen,John 5). Total fouls--CSU San Bernardino 24, Western Washington 18. Technical fouls--CSU San Bernardino-TEAM 2, Western Washington-Bragg,Austin. A-1595
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call ext. 862.