Preview of the RRAC season opener
Lady Lions, Lions play at HTU on Thursday
24-game league games start in Austin
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The start of Southwestern Assemblies of God University’s last campaign in the Red River Athletic Conference begins Thursday night in Austin.
Of the 13 teams in the men's league, four are ranked in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The women's league has a dozen teams, three ranked in the pre-season Top 25 coaches poll.
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are set to begin the first of their 24 league games with a doubleheader at the Mary E. Branch Gymnasium in the heart of the state capital city.
SAGU will meet Huston-Tillotson University (pronounced like Houston) just a mile from the University of Texas campus.
The Lady Lions (3-3) will tangle with the Lady Rams (1-5) at 5:30pm, while the Lions (5-1) clash with the Rams (1-4) at approximately 7:30pm.
There will be no video or Live Stats available for these games.
Preview: HT Lady Rams
The Lady Lions split six-point decisions with Tillotson a year ago, falling on the road, 68-62; winning at the Sheaffer Center, 58-52.
HT has displayed some impressive defense in the opening weeks. Enemy shooters are swishing just 30% of their tries and have been held to only 21% from long distance. Part of their success is due to their forcing 13 steals per game.
This year’s Lady Ewes are led by Shaniqua Thomas, a 5’9 forward. She scores 12.5 points per game, making a living with 4.8 offensive boards per contest.
Five-foot-4 Erica Cray adds twelve points and five assists per game and Danielle Franklin, also a guard, contributes 9.5 for Coach Teneshia Barefield’s team.
Update: SAGU Lady Lions
SAGU seems to be an evolving team that could take on a whole new look as the season progresses.
Veteran sideline mentor Arlon Beadles has enjoyed a highly effective zone defense and an efficient motion offense in recent seasons.
Expect to see much of that continue, along with some new wrinkles on defense.
Junior Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JC, Lakeview Centennial HS) remains the straw that stirs the Lions offense. She is producing offense at the rate of 17.3 ppg. But this year she is not alone.
Her game has taken on a fresh look with the arrival of three playmakers in Okevia Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS), Taylor Hill (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) and Jessica Sodich (Arlington, Tx / Ovilla Christian).
The foursome is quick, create their own shots and excel as passers .
Keevie’s speed has better control with over 20 assists and 66 points in six games. Plus, she is making 42% of her three-point shots. Sodich, an All-Conference volleyball spiker, has poured in 22 points in her first two games by sinking 11 of 17 shots while grabbing 14 rebounds.
Hill brings smart decisions coupled with great court vision and a feisty competitive spirit as both a point guard and defensive thorn to opponents. The freshman scores nine ppg that includes an 84% touch on the foul line.
The Lady Lions have several players collaborating at forward and center, led by Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) on the boards. She ripped 19 caroms off the glass on Tuesday night. Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) has a dependable jumper and a nose for offensive boards.
Cordia Harvatin (San Antonio, Tx / Stacey HS) and Shaina Tanks (Spring Branch, Tx / Smithson Valley HS) have the skills to develop strongly at forward.
Already in the early goings the Lady Lions are scoring 64 points per game, almost 14 more than last season.
Preview: HT Rams
Coach Elwood Plummer has rebuilt his Rams squad. The maroon-clad hoopsters field a team with eight out-of-state players who have faced some stiff competition in the early weeks of the season.
In their most recent game they topped Wayland Baptist University (5-4), 80-73, behind a solid first half.
Demetrius Smith, a 6’7 senior forward, who leads the team with a 14.2 points per game average, poured in 21 points. He is grabbing eight rebounds per outing, almost four of them on the offensive glass.
HT is making a name for themselves by crashing the offensive boards to the tune of 16.0 per game. That figure ranks #7 in the nation. They are knocking down 74% of their free throws, good for the NAIA’s #11 team.
The Rams also rank high in total rebounds, blocked shots and in steals, revealing an aggressive team with a big presence inside.
Center Ronzelle Fort, at 6’8 and 260 pounds, scores 13.6 ppg. Six others contribute six to nine points per contest. Six of their top eight scorers convert over 70% from the foul line.
Update: SAGU Lions
The Lions have gotten off to a 5-1 start primarily because of their defense and rebounding.
Forcing 21 turnovers and outboarding their foes 44-36 per game has driven a team whose offense has had shooting jitters. SAGU is holding opponents to 34% overall shooting, and just 29% from beyond the arc.
Two years ago the Lions permitted the opposition to score 87 points per game. That ranked 120th out of 122 teams. Last season the defense allowed 72 ppg, or 64th in the NAIA.
Through six games the Lions’ carnivorous nature is yielding only 63 ppg, which currently rates as the 15th best in the nation.
Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School) nets 16.5 ppg and senior James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) comes off the bench with another 13.4.
Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS), Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) and Devante Dunn (Wills Point, Tx / Wills Point HS), all backcourt catalysts, toss in 8.8, 7.5 and 6.2 per game.
Coach Donnie Bostwick’s wave after wave system of players wears down the opposition.
The play of a trio of 6’5 forwards provides the team with athletic big men.
On the baseline comes the thunder of Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS). The sophomore rebounds (7.0 rpg) and scores (10.0 ppg) and possesses a lethal turn-around jumper good from 15-feet out.
Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) is a slasher who will only improve, while Justas Norvilas (Taurage, Lithania), another freshman, is adjusting well to the nuances of American basketball. He is a sniper who is sharpening his eye.
Now comes the meat of the league schedule, when the validity of non-conference success is tested. After going 27-11 last winter, the Lions look to improve on their fourth place finish in the RRAC.
It begins Thursday night in Austin, where, in 2003, the movie Secondhand Lions was filmed. Hopefully for SAGU, their Lions can enjoy a firsthand view of a swept doubleheader along the Colorado River.
Saturday afternoon home matinee
SAGU returns home to face Jarvis Christian College on Saturday afternoon. The games have earlier starts than fans are accustomed to, with 2:00pm and 4:00pm matinee starts for the women and men respectively.
Next year SAGU will join the Sooner Athletic Conference along with fellow RRAC members Texas Wesleyan University and Northwood University.