SAGU-vs-OLLU: college hoops classic
Game Summary of Scoring Surges
Lions narrowly miss chance at NAIA tourney
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Sheaffer Center has played host to 10 consecutive Red River Athletic Conference tournaments and, while they have drawn large crowds in support of the home team, only once have the Lions advanced to the finals.
They came very close on Saturday night to duplicating the 2006 team’s effort. That year, under head coach Jerry Boone and led by Darius Howard, Julio Osorio and Matt Daniels, SAGU upset Texas Wesleyan (86-85) and UT-Permian Basin (79-72). They lost to the regular-season champion Houston Baptist University in the title game, 90-57.
That year remains the only time the men’s team has qualified for the NAIA tournament. Coincidentally, #27 seeded Wesleyan regrouped and went 5-0 to claim the national championship.
Southwestern faced the RRAC’s top-seeded team, Our Lady of the Lake University (26-6), in the semi-finals on Saturday. The Lions had routed the Saints, 106-80 on February 11, handing them their worst defeat of the season in the process. They did not forget.
OLLU won the game, 112-109, holding off a scintillating Lions comeback. There were six lead changes and the score was deadlocked eight times.
OLLU Head Coach Said
"This is our biggest win in three years because SAGU has been unbelievably good this year," the Saints' head coach Russell Vanlandingham stated on their website. "They were one game away from an at-large bid (into the NAIA tourney). For us to be able to come into their gym and beat them shows that we can win in Kansas City (site of the tournament)."
Both teams play an intense style on offense that relies on motion, sharp passes and the three-point shot. OLLU leads the NAIA in triples per game at 12.6. SAGU is fourth at 9.7. Plus, they hit the offensive boards like crash-test dummies. The Lions lay claim to 16.3 per outing, which is second nationally. The Saints are seventh at 15.4.
The Halos average 99.7 points per game, almost 10 points better than the #2 team, Life University (Ga). Southwestern is #18 in the nation, scoring at an 80.4 ppg clip.
Fans were entertained as each team took turns making scoring runs with displays at what they do best.
First Half Review
Our Lady of the Lake jumped to a quick 10-3 lead behind six points from Marco Cooper. A three-point play by A.J. Govan pushed the Saints’ lead to 16-7 before Robert Martinez drained a trey and a 19-10 margin only 4:27 into the game.
Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Christian Academy) and Christian Wood-Dvorak (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS) combined for nine straight points to knot the score at 14:09.
Ricardo Zanini and Govan connected on three-balls to put the Blue Coronas zoomed ahead 32-24.
A trifecta by senior guard Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Waco HS), followed by two Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS) layups on passes from Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School) had the Lions heating up.
Feemster found a seam in the Saints defense that seemed wide enough to beam a pass to Dvorak. He caught the bounce pass along the baseline and laid it in to tie the game at 32 (9:03).
The Lions, dressed in their road purple but still listed as the home team on the scoreboard, took their first lead on a pair of free throws by senior Jared Gibson (Dallas, Tx / Oral Roberts Univ, Plano West HS), 34-33, capping a 10-1 run.
Govan swished foul shots as OLLU reclaimed the lead, 44-37 at 4:07.
The Saints took advantage of 20 first half fouls called against the Lions to shoot 27 free throws. Fortunately for SAGU, they made only 18. Conversely, Team Purp hit 12 of 15.
SAGU had five players saddled with three fouls by recess. The deeper Saints, playing 13 players over three minutes apiece, had two with three personals.
As they would do in the second half, the Lions finished strong, outscoring the San Antones by a 12-5 count before intermission.
James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) gunned a laser from beyond the arc and Rambo lifted a rainbow – both on assists from Gibson, and Ward scored on a tip-in as SAGU went to the locker room fastened at 49.
They held OLLU to 38% shooting and just a trio of threes. SAGU was accurate frong m the field on 44% of their shots, including seven treys and won the boards by a 22-19 count.
Utilizing their effective fullcourt press to squeeze 14 turnovers, the Saints produced a few easy scores. It was countered by the Jungle Kings, who had a 16-5 advantage in second chance points.
Second Stanza Recalled
The teams exchanged hoops in the opening moments of the second stanza. Craig Grigsby (Houston, Tx / Glenda Dawson HS) picked the pocket of Martinez and zipped a pass to Ward for a breakaway rim-shaker. Rambo knocked down a triple on a dime from Ward for a 58-56 lead.
The Lions’ bench dented the Halos by outscoring them 42-37, making 15-of-19 free throws. OLLU subs combined to convert 12-of-21 foul shots.
Eddie Ortiz and Martinez netted 3-pointers as the see-saw swung in favor of the Saints, 71-63, finishing a 15-5 surge.
Two baskets apiece from Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) and Rambo teased Old Man Mo as the Purple Pride was within 76-74 with 11:31 remaining.
Mike Brown, who came off the bench and drew a season-high eight free throw attempts, made a layup seconds after a SAGU turnover for an 81-74 upper hand.
The Lions’ rotations continued to prove effective. Feemster wristed a pair from the charity stripe and assisted on back-to-back trifectas from Dvorak and Ford. SAGU trailed 85-84 at the 8:36 mark.
Down the stretch there were plenty of big plays and big calls that affected the outcome of the game.
The Saints parlayed two of them to ignite a critical 21-6 run to take control of the game.
Martinez, like Marty Robbins’ 1959 hit song about a gunfighter with a “big iron on his hip,” triggered a triad of threes; from the corner, the wing and the top of the key.
Things were looking like a bad script for SAGU when an official, away from the play, negated an apparent kosher Ward tip-in with a delayed goal-tending call.
After a Lions’ miss, as the Saints rebounded the ball on the south end of the court, the scoreboard went out. Completely. No shot clock. The public address announcer alerted officials, shouting “scoreboard” three times while the scorer’s table waved and yelled frantically.
Never responding, officials allowed three OLLU shots on the opposite end, the last one was good on a Lo’Ron Smith putback and a 94-87 lead at 6:33. After the faulty scoreboard was restored, the game resumed and the basket counted.
The veteran Saints swished 7-of-11 shots in the streak to grab their largest lead of the game at 16. They would need it.
Just when the Lions looked dead...
In arrears, 106-90, and just 4:44 to go, the outlook wasn’t brilliant for the SAGU five. Down by 16, the Lions did not give up, nor did their fans. A frenetic closing push brought to mind the nine lives of the cat.
Something about OLLU brings out the best in Feemster. He has reached double-figures five times this season. Three times it was against the Saints.
Meaning a senior herdsman; one who masters cattle, ‘Feemster’ prodded the Purple Pride with seven consecutive points on a tip-in, a triple from the corner after taking a pass from Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS), then hit his seventh and eighth free throws.
SAGU was stalking their prey, down 108-97, with 2:40 to go.
Horne, who still teams with Ward as the main cogs in the Lions’ wheel, lifted the roof when he stopped-and-popped from downtown. The transition trey came at 1:57.
Marcel Campos was fouled while launching a triple, but could convert only one of three foul shots, aiding the Lions’ cause.
But SAGU failed to capitalize as they missed 2-of-4 free throws. OLLU split a pair as well, leaving the door open. They lead 110-102 at 0:48.
Eleven seconds later Gibson, who was #2 in the NAIA in three-point field goals (103) last winter, ripped the nets when Rambo spotted him on the fringe.
Rambo, the RRAC leader in thefts, added Govan to his list of victims. It led to an inbounds play that ended with him driving the baseline for a deuce, though he missed the ‘and one’ with twenty-four remaining.
Enter: Horne. The point guard, who had a game-high 11 rebounds, snared the carom. He spun into the paint for a bucket. SAGU had pared a 16-point deficit to 110-109.
The Saints managed to beat fullcourt pressure, forcing the Lions to foul Martinez. The junior guard bagged a pair, giving the Lions fifteen seconds to tie the game with a three.
Head Coach Donnie Bostwick had four of the Lions’ top guns on the court for the opportunity to send the game into overtime and the crowd into a higher state of frenzy.
Horne, Rambo and Gibson were covered, leaving Feemster atop the key. His shot to finish regulation as a stalemate was on line, but bounced off the cylinder.
Contact was made by the defender on his arm and leg, but apparently not enough to garner a whistle, despite hitting the deck. He was a perfect 8-of-8 and is 13-of-his-last-14 in the past four games.
Still, it was a great effort by the Lions during their best season since joining the NAIA in the late 1990’s.
Fans express their support
Southwestern fans showed as much after the game. They waited until the team emerged from their dressing room, and then showered them with a worthy standing ovation.
Cheers, high fives, back-slapping, fist-bumping and glad-handing! It was like a roaring political rally from an unpaid special interest group.
Statistics: Team Totals
Click here to see the official box score and play-by-play.
Both teams made 49% of their shots, with SAGU owning a 13-12 edge in three-pointers. OLLU sank 28-of-42 free throws compared to the Lions’ 26-of-35.
The Saints outscored SAGU in the second half, 63-60, outshooting the hosts, 59% (22-37) to 53% (20-38).
Southwestern outboarded the Saints, 48-42, including a 20-16 advantage on the offensive glass.
A key factor was the effect of the OLLU press, coaxing 27 turnovers by the Lions. They had 33 and 30 in their first two meetings. The Saints made just 18 on Saturday.
Stats: Player Totes
The Lions put five players in double-figures; Rambo made 10-of-17 shots (6-of-8 after halftime) and finished with a game-best 26 points. He also raked in seven rebounds. Feemster had a season-high 18, six rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes.
Grigsby netted 15 points, while Ward tossed in 12 and reeled in five boards before fouling out in 22 minutes.
Dvorak added 10, Horne was credited with nine points, 11 (six on offense) rebounds and four assists while Ford scored eight and both Nwelue (pronounced NEW-well-a-way) and Gibson contributed five apiece. The latter also registered five assists in only twelve minutes.
OLLU produced six in double-digits; Martinez 20, Brown 16, Govan 16, Josh Orta 16, Cooper 15 with Smith scoring 10 and collecting a team-high nine boards. Orta, an impressive junior transfer from crosstown St. Mary’s University, distributed eight assists. He exited with his fifth foul with 2:59 left.
Both teams had five players with four or more fouls.
For quotes from coaches and players, see separate article.