SAGU men win 'snowy' opener, 76-72
Lions improve to 4-0, top Sterling College
Horne triggers snowstorm; Rambo, Grigsby drain clutch shots
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- It started with a snowstorm and ended with a rainbow.
The Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team remained unbeaten (4-0) with a thrilling 76-72 triumph over Sterling College (Ks) on Saturday night.
The game was the Lions’ home opener and marked the beginning of new head coach Donnie Bostwick’s tenure at SAGU. It also made successful a crazy, new tradition for the team in its first game in front of a near-packed Sheaffer Center.
When senior guard Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ of N.Texas, Waco HS) converted a shot inside the lane for the team’s first basket at home, the crowd showered the players and the court with thousands of white ping pong balls! A Southwestern snowstorm, Texas-style!
“The crowd was great,” said Coach Bostwick. “They amped us up! The fans had us playing at warp speed from the outset.”
Lions fans, decked in face-paint, posters, and in a sea of purple and gold, cheered and personified wind in the sails of the team until the closing buzzer sounded.
Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ, Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill) appeared to have rang the death knell to Sterling with 3:34 to play. He took a pass from Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS) on the wing and delivered a three-ball for a 68-57 lead that lifted the roof.
The momentum was quickly stifled when an official called an unusual technical foul on the sophomore for lifting his hands as a sign to the crowd to cheer louder.
The resulting free throws and a 3-ball, all by Sterling senior guard Trenton Stutzman (on the ensuing possession), gave life to the visitors, who were within 68-62. The Lions missed the front-end of a bonus free throw situation and Stutzman swished a jumper.
After leading by double-digit margins throughout much of the game, Southwestern was forced to weather a storm of orange balls; three-pointers by Stutzman. He drained 7-of-11 from downtown as the Warriors rallied to within 68-64.
But this year’s edition of Lions are proving their mettle in the clutch.
Horne, the clear leader of this team, spotted Rambo on the perimeter after an inbounds pass from Ward, and ‘Bo’ launched a high-arching rainbow triple to keep the Purple Pride on top, 71-64, with 1:35 left.
The Lions remained up, 73-67, when 6'4 Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) netted a floater on a drive in the paint with 0:36 showing on the clock.
Stutzman wasn’t through. He got the ball and a screen from Adam Brown on the left and wristed a trifecta; 73-70, 0:24.
An errant pass against pressure in the backcourt gave them a chance to tie as fans stood, chanting “Defense!”
The Warriors passed up on a three-point try and cut their deficit to one on a Darius Alexander drive with seventeen seconds left.
A quick foul sent Craig Grigsby (Houston, Tx / Glenda Dawson HS) to the charity stripe. The sophomore, who made 79% as a freshman, calmly stroked a pair of foul shots (0:15 to go).
Zach Poole was long on a three-pointer and Ward, the nation’s top rebounder in 2010, gobbled up the carom. His free throw at 0:04 iced a game that earlier was covered in snow.
Rambo and Grigsby led the Lions with 18 and 16 points respectively, combining to make 11-of-19 shots and 5-of-8 threes.
Reserve guards James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) and Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian) bucketed eight apiece while Horne tossed in seven, grabbed four rebounds, dished out three assists and made two steals in 27 minutes.
Walter also added seven points and led the team in boards with seven. Ward and Christian Wood-Dvorak (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS) both seized six rebounds with the latter collecting a game-high five steals.
Bostwick played two 5-man rotations, with individuals getting between twelve and 28 minutes.
The teams battled evenly on the boards, 37-37, while Sterling had the shooting edge, 43% (23 of 53) to 38% (26 of 69). SAGU made up for their cool hands by forcing 29 turnovers (SAGU had 15) and owning a 16-8 margin on the offensive glass.
Southwestern limited NAIA All-American forward Cody Brazelton to 12-points and eight rebounds. The 6-foot-6 senior also made seven turnovers while playing a game-high 36 minutes.
Winning under pressure
“It’s great anytime you can win a close game,” Coach Bostwick said with a raspy voice following the game. “We found a way to finish. That’s why you work to build a 14-point cushion.”
“We still have a lot to learn,” he continued. “There’s more slippage than I care for. But give credit for that to Sterling. They kept us from finding our rhythm. We didn’t shoot well, though our guys gave tremendous effort and energy. They gave it everything they had. We forced turnovers and hit the boards.”
He also mentioned the SAGU bench. “They protected the lead and gave us great balance.”
Home games on Nov. 19 and 21, Saturday and Monday
SAGU returns to the court on Saturday, November 19, when they host St. Gregory’s University (Ok). The Cavaliers (2-1) hail from the Sooner Athletic Conference. They upset 6th ranked LSU-Shreveport on Nov. 4. The Lions then host Arlington Baptist College the following Monday, Nov. 21, at 7:30pm.
All Southwestern home games are available for fans to follow on-line via Livestats, a webcasted text-version of the game’s play-by-play. Details will be posted later this week.
SAGU SPORTS Live, who provide the finest HD broadcast in the NAIA, begin airing home games on January 7 when Langston University visits the Sheaffer Center.
Senior guard Jared Gibson (Dallas, Tx / Plano West HS), who was #2 in the NAIA last season in three-point baskets, has one semester of eligibility remaining. He will be activated in time for the December 12 conference game in San Antonio against Our Lady of the Lake University.