Montevallo beats Bellarmine 79-72 in Div-II semi

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) -- D.J. Rivera scored 23 points and led a closing run that swept Montevallo, Ala., to a 79-72 victory over defending champion Bellarmine in the Division II semifinals on Thursday night.

Montevallo (29-7) plays Western Washington for the championship on Saturday. Both teams will be making their first appearance in the title game.

Bellarmine (29-4) was trying to become the first Division II team to win back-to-back titles since Cal State-Bakersfield in 1993-94. The Knights let a close game slip away by going nearly 8 minutes without scoring.

Bellarmine had the home-court advantage, able to bring its pep band, cheerleaders and a large contingent of fans from nearby Louisville. Plus, the Knights were 4-0 at the Bank of Kentucky Center.

The quicker Falcons pushed the pace and blew open a back-and-forth game -- four ties, 10 lead changes -- behind their quick point guard, who led a decisive 11-0 spurt.