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.