Lions comeback to finish 3rd in nation
SAGU overcomes 17-point deficit
Inspiring rally caps season at 27-11
WINONA LAKE, Indiana -- Southwestern Assemblies of God University’s most successful season since joining the NAIA came to a thrilling conclusion with a stirring 84-81 comeback against Hope International University (Cal) in the NCCAA consolation game.
The Lions big turnaround season finished at 27-11 with a third place trophy at the National Christian College Athletic Assocation’s national tournament held at Grace College.
Southwestern took their first lead of the second half when Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ, Trinity Christian School) drove down the heart of the lane, spun to avoid a defender, then dished to Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) on the right. The freshman finished the play with a lay-in, was fouled, and converted the ‘and one’ for a 79-78 lead with 1:17 to play. They wouldn't lose it.
Craig Grigsby (Houston, Tx / Glenda Dawson HS) stole the ball on Hope’s next possession and was fouled to prevent a breakaway layup. He popped a pair from the foul line to extend the lead to three with: 59 left. The Royals missed two offensive putbacks before Grigsby soared for the rebound and was fouled. He split a pair of free throws.
After an off-balance three-pointer by Kris Rosales, Hope still had hope, trailing 82-81 with twelve ticks on the clock.
Forced to foul, they sent Grigsby, SAGU’s best, to the charity stripe. Bang. Bang. 84-81 with 0:08 showing.
A well-covered Rosales was off the mark on a trey from the top of the key as the horn sounded.
Coach Bostwick's Post-Game Comments
“The game summarized our season,” head coach Donnie Bostwick said following the game. “Trying to accomplish so many things in one year is nearly impossible. And these guys have done so much without complaining.”
As for the 25-10 closing surge, “We went back to deciding to do what we could control, which was our effort. We were determined to outwork them. To do that, we had to accelerate things,” he said.
“They simply weren’t able to prevent us from imposing our will. We kept getting back up and battling. The guys weren’t going to be denied.”
“We’ve had comebacks and ran out of time before. But not today. Today, lambs became lions!”
Coach Bostwick credited a couple of other factors that served as an impetus.
“The guys really rallied behind Ron (Horne) and Jared (Gibson) in their last game. And Caleb Feemster. His grandfather passed away this morning, and he was playing with a heavy heart.”
The Comeback from 17-down
SAGU fell behind 59-42 with 14:28 to play behind the hot hand of Hope’s flashy guard, Rosales, who scored 30 points. Foul woes and an arm injury that sidelined Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Waco HS) had the Lions facing a bleak situation.
Details of the injury weren’t known, though x-rays were negative.
They ratcheted up the defense and began making stops on Rosales. SAGU then started to speed up the game by applying a trapping, full-court press. It coaxed some key turnovers and bad decisions by the Royals.
Meanwhile, the Lions circled the wagons with the loss of Horne and began making plays on offense.
A dunk by Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS) on a pass from Rambo ignited the comeback. A pair of foul shots by Nwelue drew SAGU to within 71-68 and Old Man Momentum was seen being fitted for a purple and gold jersey.
Christian Wood-Dvorak (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS) cashed in an assist from Grigsby by ripping the nets from beyond the arc at the 3:20 mark. SAGU trailed, 73-71.
When Grigsby netted an 8-foot bank shot with 2:59 to play, the Lions had outscored Hope 14-2 and equalized the scoreboard at 73-all.
Nwelue (new-WELL-a-way) grabbed a Rambo miss and slammed a two-handed tomahawk to pull to within one, 76-75, with 2:08 to go. He sank a FT at 1:44, though SAGU still trailed, 78-76.
That set the stage for Rambo’s dime-dropping dish to Nwelue for a lead the Lions would not relinquish. It capped a 20-7 scoring string.
Team and Player Totals
SAGU outrebounded Hope in the second half, 25-17, eleven of them coming off the offensive glass. The game totals showed the Lions hold a 44-34 margin, including a 20-12 upper hand on the offensive end.
The Lions outshot Hope, 41% (28-of-68) to 40% (24-of-59), and had an 11-8 advantage in shots from beyond the arc. The Purple Pride won the second half, 52-44.
After trailing by a large margin in free throw attempts, the Jungle Kings finished the game hitting 17-of-25 to Hope’s 25-of-30. Southwestern was 15-of-21 after intermission.
Individually, Rambo poured in 21 points on 8-of-21 shots. Nwelue added 14, swishing all five of his shots, four on turnaround jumpers, as well as going 4-of-5 on the foul line. Feemster and Grigsby each bucketed 10 points.
Ward was credited with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds, while Horne and Dvorak had eight points apiece. Horne, Rambo, Dvorak and Feemster each fired in a pair of trifectas.
Grigsby was tops in dimes with five. Horne had four assists in 20 minutes, matching Rambo’s four helpers. Both Grigsby and Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) led with three steals.
The Lions came out firing to start the game, holding the lead for much of the half. They built a 24-17 lead with good passing and the three ball.
The Royals closed with an impressive 20-8 run to take a 37-32 lead at the break. Playing as a cohesive group, they knocked down a pair of late three-balls to head to the locker room with the lead and momentum.
SAGU shot 38% from the field, including eight triples. Hope connected on 36% and were outboarded 19-17, but sank all 14 of their free throws.
Hope, from Fullerton, California, was keyed by the junior guard, Rosales and All-American, 6-foot-7 forward Steve Jurich (YER-ick), who registered 30 and 19 points.
The team will return on their custom coach overnight, with an expected campus arrival time of 10:00am.