Lions come up short in Semi-Final
Cedarville tops SAGU, 74-56
Southwestern to face Hope Int'l for 3rd on Sat
WINONA LAKE, Indiana -- The men’s basketball team from Southwestern Assemblies of God University couldn’t overcome a cold start in both halves and fell short against a talented Cedarville University (Oh) team, 74-56, in the NCCAA national semi-finals.
SAGU will face Hope International University at 11:00am (CST) on Saturday at the Orthopaedic Capital Center. The winner will finish third in the National Christian College Athletic Association. The Hope Royals are from Fullerton, California.
Southwestern, the #4 seed at the eight-team nationals, toiled to counter the #1 seeded Yellow Jackets’ superior size with their fusion of speed, hustle, depth and the three-ball. It wasn’t enough.
“That was a very good team,” said Assistant Coach Garrett Jones. “They are as good as anyone we’ve played this season.”
Struggling against match-ups that favored Cedarville (22-9), the task was made more challenging by a striped crew that saw few infractions due to brute force. It may not have made a difference.
First Half Revisited
The Lions connected on just three of their first 17 shots and trailed the Yellow Jackets, 16-7, midway through the first half. The team regrouped, made adjustments to boost the offense against the much taller Stingers, and pulled to within 20-18 on a Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Christian Academy) three-ball from the right corner.
A Jared Gibson (Dallas, Tx / Oral Roberts Univ, Plano West HS) triple from the depths of the left corner had the Lions growling to within one at 23-22.
When Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) scored and was fouled on a putback of a Craig Grigsby (Houston, Tx / Glenda Dawson HS) miss, SAGU had a chance to tie the game. The ‘and one’ was missed, capping a 17-8 run. SAGU trailed at intermission by a 26-24 count.
It was the second lowest output for the team in the team’s 37-game season. In fact, only five other times did Southwestern fail to reach 30 by the break. They trailed at Texas College, 27-22, before rallying to win, 74-64. SAGU has averaged 39 points per game by recess.
The Jackets, who are in the NCAA’s Division 2, were taller and more physical than Southwestern. Coupled with an official’s crew who allowed plenty of contact on the interior, the Lions faced a huge obstacle.
Four inside drives by Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Waco HS) all ended abruptly without the benefit of a referee’s whistle. Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ, Trinity Christian School) and Grigsby all experienced brute resistance with little reward.
Second Half Summary
The second half started like the first, with Cedarville, the tournament’s top-seed, outscoring SAGU 26-11. Leading 52-35, they had complete control of the game.
Battling courageously against a team that head coach Donnie Bostwick said drew comparisons to LSU-Shreveport, the Lions had little answer for CU's elevated players. It resembled playing Monopoly with the opposition carrying a stack of Get Out of Jail cards.
SAGU was forced to settle for a perimeter game that couldn’t make up the difference. When they did get to the foul line, their season-long drawback, the Lions converted only five of 15 tries.
Still, they fought tooth and nail, determined they would win on sheer willpower and dogged tenacity. It was valiant but not victorious.
Horne, who made all seven of his shots beyond the arc, drained a trifecta after a Nwelue offensive rebound. An angled drive inside by Grigsby produced a bucket. He followed that with a trey from the corner on a Rambo dime that kept SAGU within seven at 42-35.
A pair of threes by Austin Foote, and a series of made free throws expanded the Cedarville lead to 55-37 at the 9:05 mark.
SAGU applied fullcourt pressure with little success as the well-coached Jackets managed to maneuver through the maze for power layups.
Horne remained the only offensive threat in purple. The senior ripped the nets after assists by Grigsby and Rambo from both the right and left wings. A stepback bomb cut the deficit to 55-43 (8:25 to go), but the Lions would get no closer.
The Jackets were patient and efficient on offense, making 54% of their shots in the second half as well as 17-of-21 foul shots in a stanza that saw them outscore the Lions by a 48-32 count.
They stroked 21-of-28 free throws by the end of the game.
Cedarville, who has surpassed 20 wins in eleven consecutive seasons, owned the boards, 44-31, and blocked seven shots.
They were a handful for a young and fearless Lions squad that would’ve continued to contest the outcome if the buzzer hadn’t sounded.
Under the guiding light of Coach Bostwick the Lions have gone from 10-21 a year ago, excluding a pair of forfeit wins over Texas College, to 26-11 this winter. A remarkable turnaround that saw the team ranked nationally, nearly ending with a trip to the NAIA tournament.
The defeat was only the fourth of the season by 10 or more points. Our Lady of the Lake University, #7 in the NAIA, gave the Lions their largest loss at 19-points, 98-79. SAGU replied by administering the Saints their biggest setback, 106-80, in the rematch.
SAGU finished the game with 11 three-point baskets in 29 attempts (38%), which were offset by making only nine of 34 from inside the arc (26%).
The foul line was most uncharitable, with the Lions swishing 5-of-15.
By committing only 10 turnovers, eight under their average, the team was able to get off more shots, 63-50, than Cedarville. The Jungle Kings, who are sixth in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (nearly 16 per), managed 10, one more than CU.
Player Totes: Horne led all scorers
Horne poured in 23 points in twenty-seven minutes, hitting 8-of-11 shots. He played forward on defense after Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS) was saddled with four touch fouls and held to 15 minutes.
As the teams shook hands afterwards, Horne congratulated the better team on this night with well-wishes for their game in the NCCAA finals on Saturday night. Cedarville will take on Emmanuel College, 21-15, who held off Hope International, 52-45, in the other semi-final.
Grigsby added nine points. Rambo, wrangling against constant coverage, never found his rhythm. He made 3-of-19 shots in 33 minutes but did scrap for a team-high seven rebounds. Nwelue snared six caroms.
The bench, seldom outscored, was topped by Jackets, 23-13. James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) led the unit with five points. Along with Feemster and Gibson, the squad tossed in a trio of threes.
Zimmy Nwogbo, a 6’7 junior from Lithonia, Georgia, was the rock inside for Cedarville. He scored 13 points, grabbed 14 boards, rejected four shots and sank 7-of-8 free throws. He was cited for a lone foul.
Four other players reached double figures, led by 6’8 Jamaican, Brian Grant. He was credited for 14 points, six rebounds and a pair of swats.