SAGU hosts Texas College tonight
Plenty at stake for both teams
Men's game pits pair of 7-1 squads
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Tonight’s basketball doubleheader at the Sheaffer Center has two cards on the docket between Southwestern Assemblies of God University and the visiting Texas College.
This will be the final home date before the fall semester ends at the end of the week, though SAGU has a December 13 home clash with LSU-Shreveport.
The women’s game, slated for a 5:30pm start, pits the Lady Lions (3-5) against the Lady Steers (1-7). Both teams are tied for 10th in the Red River Athletic Conference with 0-2 marks.
A year ago the Lady Lions (10-21) dropped both games against Texas College (11-19), 70-59 in Waxahachie and 59-57 in Tyler.
Southwestern Head Coach Arlon Beadles said, “Texas College is a very athletic team. They have played LSU-Shreveport to a 3 point game (80-77).”
The Lady Pilots are 6-1 and were ranked #19 in the NAIA Coaches Pre-Season poll.
As for the player to watch for in first year head coach Bo Bivens’ Lady Steers line-up, it’s Keyara Criner (KEE-ar-ah KRY-nurh). She is a senior center from Dallas.
“She’s a 6’1 post (center) who scores 14 points per game and grabs seven rebounds,” Beadles pointed out. “She will be hard to handle.”
In their last meeting it was Criner who sparked TC to a road victory over SAGU. She poured in 15 points as the Steers overcame a 31-29 halftime deficit to win, 70-59.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the hosts will be filling the void left by top scorer Nia Winston (Garland, Tx / Panola JC, Lakeview Centennial HS). She left Saturday’s game after eight minutes and is out indefinitely.
“We will be looking for someone to step up and take Nia’s scoring role. She will not play today,” the coach explained.
Which player or players assumes the position, it will require adjustments in the team’s offense and defensive rotations.
On Saturday it was sophomore Cordia Harvatin (San Antonio, Tx / Stacey HS). She netted a career-best 17 points. She played guard in high school, scoring 26 points per game.
Harvatin (HAR-vah-ten) will not have to shoulder the load alone. Several others will likely have the opportunity to contribute more, including guards Keevie Bratchett (Center, Tx / Tenaha HS), Andrea Lugo (San Antonio, Tx / Somerset HS) and Bethany Krock (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian). Bratchett is currently averaging almost 10 points per outing. The key for them is minimizing turnovers.
On the baseline, Sierra Hankins (Welch, Ok / Welch HS) is scoring 6.1 points per game and her 7.0 rebound average ranks 11th in the conference.
Two who will have as good a chance as any to assume a newfound task are volleyballers Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) and Jessica Sodich (Arlington, Tx / Ovilla Christian). The former is a rebounder, where she has snared 12.5 caroms per game.
Sodich is a playmaker at wing, and could be the X-factor.
Lions face Steers in battle of 7-1 teams
When the men collide, it will pit two of the league’s contenders at 7:30pm.
SAGU and Texas College are both 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the RRAC.
The two teams appear evenly matched after a month of preliminary games, with both excelling on the defensive end.
When they played last season, the games were highly contested and went the distance.
Home court advantage did not factor in the outcomes as the Lions won in East Texas, 74-64, with the Horns (17-14 record) taking the rematch, 74-73 in double overtime. Hamid Ford broke SAGU hearts with a buzzer-beating three-ball to win it.
Some observers felt that loss was the difference in the Lions missing an invitation to the NAIA national tournament.
Three teams from the Red River earned a bid; Our Lady of the Lake University (27-8), LSU-Shreveport (27-8) and Texas Wesleyan University (25-8). SAGU (27-11), who split with OLLU and LSUS, did not.
The Lions went 12-3 at home last winter, falling to Texas Wesleyan (61-58), Wiley College (70-68) and to Texas College.
Coach Marquet Norfleet, now in his fifth year at the helm, has five players scoring in double figures. That “pick your poison” attack makes opponents work to cover everyone.
Wendall Maye, a 6’3 shooting guard, leads the quintet with a 17.5 ppg average. Kerry Jones, a power forward standing 6’7, is accounting for 13.4 ppg.
Three others all net 10.4, 10.3 and 10.3 scoring norms; 6’6 Norman Stewart, 6’6 Titus Stevenson and 5’9 junior point guard Jamal Robertson. Four of the five are seniors.
Eddren McCain, a senior guard, is averaging 5.1 assists per game as a key distributor. He may be the protagonist for the Steers tonight.
Two years ago, while playing for Paul Quinn College, he led the RRAC in assists (7.2 apg), while scoring 9.8. The Tigers went 21-11 that year.
SAGU is led by guards Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian) and James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy), who average 16.1 and 13.3 respectively.
Rambo dishes dimes to the tune of 4.6 per outing and is tops in the league in steals (3.4).
The game will likely be decided by which team gains a significant edge in their area of strength.
For SAGU, it’s defense, where they allow opponents to make only 35% of their shots. That rates #1 in the RRAC and is #2 in the NAIA behind Lee University's (Tenn) 34%. Texas College allows the enemy to connect on 48% of their attempts.
The taller Steers have owned the paint, where their margin of supremacy in rebounds is huge at 18.5. That leads the entire nation by three boards per game.
The next closest team in the league is SAGU at 7.6, which ranks 15th in the NAIA.
Translated, Texas College is getting 38.9 boards per game and allowing an unheard of 20.4 total. Southwestern is at 44.7 and 37.1.
How Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS), Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) and Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) do on the boards may tell the tale.
Five games remain in December after tonight
After tonight, SAGU has five more games December games, four of them on the road. The teams will be in Oklahoma next weekend to face Bacone College and Langston University on Saturday and Monday.
The Lions hope to have Nathaniel Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Connally HS) back next week. The 6'5 senior led the NAIA in rebounding as a sophomore.
Beginning with the January 5th game against Houston's St. Thomas, all 2013 home games will be aired by SAGU Sports Live in HD.