SAGU holds off Sterling, 60-54
Rambo steal cuts short Warrior comeback
Lions improve to 4-0, play again Monday
STERLING, Kansas -- Staving off a late comeback by the home team, Southwestern Assemblies of God University beat Sterling College, 60-54, in men’s college basketball action on Saturday night.
The Lions, now 4-0, were playing their second game at the Sterling Classic in central Kansas. They clipped Tabor College (Ks), 69-61, the night before.
SAGU took the lead for good at 22-20, and extended it to 42-26 with 14:12 remaining. The Warriors (3-3) stormed back during a 26-7 run, jump-started by eight straight free throws in just over a minute.
Protecting a 53-52 lead with 3:17 on the clock, SAGU’s defense intensified.
The Warriors, playing inside their Gleason Center, were unable to convert any of their final eight shots and were coerced into two turnovers.
The outcome hanging in the balance, junior Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School) stood as the vanguard.
He confidently netted the game’s next shot. Rambo drove into the paint, rose over two defenders and swished a floater.
After being cited for a foul, the Warriors were within the slimmest of margins following two free throws by Travis Morris with 0:52 remaining.
SAGU then lost possession of the ball on an offensive foul called against senior James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy).
Rambo, Climactic 'Cat
Rambo responded by turning in the game’s pivotal play.
“He got his hand in on a crossover dribble (by Morris),” described Head Coach Donnie Bostwick, “and he was able to finish (the play with) a left-handed layup.”
Cashing in on his theft, Rambo still made the basket while being challenged on the break. The Lions were on top, 57-54, with 0:44 to go.
Sterling misfired on their final four shots while Ford and Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) salted away the win with three free throws.
“It was a great road win,” Bostwick said afterwards. “Rambo really brought the ship into the harbor with a big steal and basket to seal the win. It was a huge play!”
“James (Ford) had a terrific weekend,” he continued. “I’m very proud of his and Duce (Ward’s) leadership. They are two fine, young men.”
It was the second time in Bostwick’s two years at SAGU the Lions had gotten past Sterling College. Last season they held off the Warriors, 76-72, at the first “Texas Snowstorm.”
Bostwick, Jaderston: Friends, rivals
The victory was over one of Bostwick’s close friends in coaching, Sterling’s Dean Jaderston (Crown College, MN).
“He does an incredible job and runs a class program,” Bostwick said. “He is not only a great coach but even a better Christian mentor for his players.”
Key SAGU performers
Southwestern connected on 37% of their shots, 22 of 59, while keeping the hosts under wraps at 31% (17-55).
The SAGU defense forced 18 turnovers and made 10 steals, three apiece by Rambo and Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS), the latter also blocking a pair of shots.
The Lions backcourt enjoyed the benefits of one of their key elements; three-point proficiency.
A year after finishing third nationally in threes made per game at 9.8, the team netted nine; five by players coming off the bench. Sterling was 1-of-13 from beyond the arc.
The Warriors fought to stay within striking distance by converting 19 of 21 free throw attempts and by controlling the boards, 42-37. SAGU had three players strapped with four fouls.
Two areas that signaled the Lions rapid improvement in 2011, offensive rebounds and minimizing turnovers, were evident again. SAGU grabbed 14 missed shots on the offensive end, and coughed up the ball 15 times.
“We really had a great weekend on the defensive end of the floor and on the offensive glass,” Bostwick pointed out. “That equals W's,” he said of the winning equation.
The Lions collected 19 offensive boards on Friday and 14 against Sterling. They averaged 14.7 last winter when they ranked #14 in the category.
As for SAGU’s offense, Bostwick didn’t sound overly concerned. “Our offense will catch up. We just need to keep doing what we do.”
Perhaps part of the sluggish offensive was a game slowed by 38 fouls, 22 whistled against the Lions.
The Lions were led in scoring by Rambo, who bucketed 21. While struggling with his shooting touch (9-of-26), he delivered under pressure. For the second game in as many nights he bagged five assists.
Ford, the saavy senior, tossed in 12 points in just 16 minutes. He pulled the trigger on three-of-six triples. Bostwick played 10 players, eight of whom scored.
Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS) and Walter accounted for eight and seven points.
Walter’s effort, which included a team-best nine rebounds, was essential when Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) was shackled with foul woes. Walter had five offensive caroms.
A hybrid 6’4 guard-forward who can cause match-up problems for opponents, he is often the X-factor for the Lions.
Another player who drew the praise of Bostwick was winger, Justas (YOO-stiss) Norvilas (Taurage, Lithuania / Versmes).
The freshman stroked a pressure-packed trifecta to give SAGU a 48-40 lead with 7:58 on the clock. It came after a three-point play by Walter during a 14-3 run by the Warriors.
A moment later Ford unloaded a trey for a 51-40 lead that gave the Purple Pride a cushion that would later prove vital.
Rambo dished dimes on both triples.
“Justas hit a big three to break momentum on a great pass from Rambo,” the coach explained. “It was followed by another (Rambo) assist to ‘Truck’ (Ford) for another three.”
Setting-up the Big Finish
SAGU used threes by Gentry and Walter for an 11-5 lead. Sterling got untracked as senior guard Raheem Odomes sparked an 11-0 surge for their largest lead, 16-11, at the 7:04 mark.
Rambo parlayed a trey, a three-point play and a basket to lead the Lions to a 25-20 advantage, a 14-4 rebuttal.
Ford and Devante Dunn (Wills Point, Tx / Wills Point HS) launched 3-balls to give Southwestern a 31-24 lead at the break.
On the strength of steals by Walter and Rambo, both turned into layups, the Jungle Kings went up 39-26. When Dunn assisted on another Ford triple, the Lions were on top, 42-26.
Thanksgiving Week Schedule
SAGU returns to the court on Monday with a local road game. They will face Dallas Christian College for the second time in less than two weeks.
The Crusaders (1-7) came close to upsetting NCAA Division I Houston Baptist University, 82-73, on Saturday. DCC sank 29-of-34 from the foul line as they battled the Huskies (3-1) at the Sharp Gym.
Game time is set for 7:30pm.
SAGU’s next home game is set for Saturday, November 24, when the NAIA’s #8 ranked team, Westmont College, visits the Sheaffer Center for a 5:00pm (CST) tip-off.
Currently, the Warriors are 4-1. They fell at NCAA Division III Pimona-Pitzer College, 81-79, on a shot at the buzzer on Friday. Fifteen missed free throws came back to haunt the Warriors.
Westmont rebounded against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College, 67-61, on Saturday. The Staggs (0-2) are also an NCAA D3 team.
They are led by senior guard Preston Branson, the MVP of the Golden State Athletic Conference last year.