Horns, red tie, take down Lions
Texas College defense cools 'Cats
SAGU must regroup for 5 games in 10 days
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Texas College grabbed a quick lead and added to it with an attacking offense and a defense that limited Southwestern Assemblies of God University to make only 31% of their shots in a 71-58 triumph on Monday night.
An impressive Steers team, now 8-1 in all games and 3-0 in the Red River Athletic Conference, led from six to twelve points for much of a game that was hard-fought throughout.
The loss was SAGU’s second at home. Westmont College (currently 7-1), ranked #8 in the NAIA Pre-Season Coaches Poll, came from behind to edge the Lions in overtime, 69-65. The Purple Pride were 12-3 last season.
The Steers seemed to have an answer for every rally made by the host Jungle Kings. Time and again both clubs traded scoring runs, each like a reply to counter the opposition’s surge in points.
Texas College had the hot hand from the outset, knocking down 56% of their shots in the first half and 46% in the second.
Meanwhile, the Lions were serving cold cuts; 31% (9-of-29) before intermission and 33% (13-of-39) afterwards.
One thing not lacking were the Lions’ staple; hard work and a never-say-die spirit. It kept them in the game, along with an 18-7 advantage in offensive rebounds.
Cold front arrives in the Sheaffer Center
SAGU’s defense struggled against the senior-laden Horns, along with an arctic chill effect on the foul line.
The Lions made eight-of-22 free throws (36%), including just three-of-eleven in the second half to effectively short-circuit any chance of a comeback.
Behind by seven, the Lions drew to within 19-18 on a thunderous jam by Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS). He slashed down the middle of the lane, caught a pitch in stride from Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian) with 10:05 to go in the half.
The Longhorns replied with a 7-0 run, punctuated by a baseline drive and a kiss off the glass by Jamal Robertson and a three-point play from Brandon Lee.
Perhaps the most creative of plays by either team came moments later.
Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS) swiped the ball near midcourt. He pivoted and then flipped a pass behind his head to a streaking Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian) for a deuce.
The score at the time was TC 28-22. Each team scored seven points in the last four minutes of the first half.
Second half, much like the first
After falling behind 40-27 to start the second stanza, the Lions roared during an 11-3 run.
Key plays in the string was a steal by Rambo in which he poked the ball to Gentry, who sent a pass back to ‘Bo for a layup and a spinning offensive stickback by Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS).
Also in the mix was a three-ball from the corner pocket by Devante Dunn (Wills Point, Tx /Wills Point HS). It came on a pass from Rambo following a steal by Nwelue (pronounced like DWELL-way).
The Steers stemmed the tide with seven straight, on a three-point play and a transition hoop by Eddren McCain and a baseline fade-away from Titus Stevenson for a 50-38 advantage with 11:36 to go.
Nwelue retorted with one of three two-fisted dunks and a one-handed jumper in the lane by James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy). Guidry drove the baseline and sent a pass to a cutting Ford for the score.
A Guidry to Nwelue basket had the Lions within 52-45 at the 5:49 mark. They would get no closer.
Wendall Maye and McCain nailed it down with field goals and free throws down the stretch. A triple by Norman Stewart extended the Steers upper hand to 64-49, their largest lead.
Rambo fired a rainbow ‘3’ and a layup to close the Lions scoring with 0:47 on the clock.
Nwelue easily had the strongest game for SAGU with 15 points and 12 rebounds, seven of them on offense. He also blocked three shots.
Rambo fought through a rough night and still managed to score 12. Walter had nine, seven of them in the first half.
“Mike was the only player to shoot over 50%,” Head Coach Donnie Bostwick said of Nwelue. “Statistically, he had 15 and 12. He played pretty well.”
“We played hard,” the coach said of his team’s #1 constant. “We just were not prepared, and that is on me,” Bostwick added.
“I take responsibility for this one.”
“We’re young,” he pointed out, “but we’re also building something good. We’ll get better. It’s time to get back to work.”
The team, now 7-2 and 2-1 in the RRAC, has five more games before the holiday break, starting with two road games in Oklahoma this weekend.
The Lions face Bacone College on Saturday night and then face Langston University on Monday. Both are slated for 7:30pm starts.
Coach Norfleet's praise-fest and the red tie
Texas College Head Coach Marquet Norfleet began his post-game briefing by praising Bostwick.
“He is one of the best coaches in the country,” he said. “He’s one of our conference’s better coaches. Whatever can be won or done by a coach, he’s done it.”
“In a very short time, Donnie has made SAGU one of the teams to beat in the Red River,” he continued. “They, just like the best teams, battle hard every night. Plus, they have great fans here at SAGU. We wanted to get the lead to keep the fans from impacting the game.”
“We played very well tonight. We knocked down some big shots. But SAGU kept coming. They kept coming all night. They won’t quit, so neither could we.”
Coach Norfleet could just as well be describing himself. Recently diagnosed with a sobering health issue, he remains upbeat, focused and relentless.
Known for his colorful attire, always adorned with a bow tie, his team has been on a roll of late since he wore a red, standard tie, when he couldn’t locate his bow tie of choice. “It’s now my lucky tie. Haven’t lost with it yet.”
What is also becoming a trademark of the Steers is their rebounding and defense.
“We won this game on defense,” he admitted. “These guys are making defense our calling card. Maye, Robertson, (Kerry) Jones, Lee and Stevenson are making the plays to keep plays from happening.”
"Tonight we had to put a body on Rambo," he said of his team's defensive strategy. "We had to limit him from driving because he is very crafty with the ball."
"When 'Bo gets in the lane, he gets to create shots for himself and others. So we kept rotating fresh players to try to slow him down."
Norfleet said the performance of Nwelue was a big factor in the Lions attack. "He's so active. He kept giving them second chances on offense."
He summed it up before taking the team bus to their favorite Waxahachie restaurant (Chicken Express), “We’re glad they missed free throws and we're very glad to get this win. We gotta be amped up after this one.”
The Steers were led by Maye and Robertson, who had 18 and 16 points. The seniors collaborated to make 10 of 15 shots, 4-of-5 trifectas, and 10 rebounds.
Stevenson came off the bench to add 14 points in twenty minutes. He connected on five of six shots and, along with Maye, reeled in eight rebounds.
For more on the game, read Coach Bostwick Discusses Setback at www.sagu.edu/athletics.