Down by 22, Lions stun no. 24 Texas College
SAGU rises to 16-3; 11-0 on the road
Rambo, Walter spark late rally in 77-71 thriller
Official Box Score
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- In 1998, Belgian Johan Bruyneel, a former professional cyclist said about the Tour de France, “Look, if we’re going to ride the Tour, we might as well win."
Last night the Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team, ranked no. 17 in the NAIA, found themselves in quite the quandary.
On the road playing at one of the toughest places to win, Tyler’s rustic Gus F. Taylor Gym, they trailed Texas College 40-18. Supported by boisterous fans the Steers were intent on administering a second beatdown of SAGU this season.
The Lions, however, were as they have been branded this season, resilient.
They found a way to claw back, roaring down the stretch to claim the victory. SAGU outscored the Steers 18-6 in the final six minutes to escape with a 77-71 triumph over no. 24 ranked team.
Team Purple, who improved to 16-3 overall and 10-2 in the Red River Athletic Conference, led for less than four minutes. By defeating the ‘Horns, SAGU also kept their road record a perfect 11-0, even with a less than perfect performance.
Texas College (13-6, 7-5 in RRAC), who were no. 10 in the nation two weeks ago, dropped their fourth straight and fifth in their past six games.
Losing by 8, 2, 4, 2 and 6, their shortfalls have come by an average of just 4.4 points. In December they handed the Lions a 71-58 setback at the Sheaffer Center.
“We kept fighting and battling,” said Head Coach Donnie Bostwick. “They (Texas College) are talented, tough and well-coached. And every time we thought we were back in the game, they answered with a flurry of points.”
“Our God loves the impossible,” he said. “Tonight, down by about 25 points in the first half, we visited the impossible.”
“Rambo simply put us on his back and helped cut the lead to 11 points by halftime to give us a chance,” he pointed out. “We finally caught them with four (minutes) to go.”
“Then, our defense got three consecutive stops and we were able to finish off a very good win.”
Second Half: "Might as Well Win It"
After cutting their deficit to 44-31 at intermission, the Lions knotted the score at 50. Under Head Coach Marquet Norfleet, the Steers answered with a 10-2 run for a 60-52 lead.
Jamal Robertson assisted a 3-ball by Ken Dorsey and an inside bucket by 6’7 junior Kerry Jones.
Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School) netted a three-pointer and a layup and Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS) converted a pair of free throws to draw within 65-59.
Southwestern still had enough in the tank and had the cyclist’s will; “we might as well win it.”
They responded by dialing up a scoring surge to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Over the final 6+ minutes the Lions defense constricted and the Steers, who were minus two injured regulars, were either cold or tired. Or both.
With the game on the line, SAGU hit 7-of-12 shots while Texas College made just 3-of-12 during those closing minutes.
The Steers also committed four turnovers to a lone miscue for Team Purp. In fact, SAGU made only seven for the game, just two turnovers after halftime.
Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) and Rambo added field goals and Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS) split two foul shots before Brandon Lee gave the Steers a 67-64 advantage.
The Lions then pieced together an inspiring conclusion.
After Rambo tied up Robertson in the lane, he scored a layup on an inbounds pass from Walter. He cut through a seam in the middle of the Steers’ zone to catch a bounce pass and score on a scoop shot.
He added a whirling jump shot from the elbow following a turnover for a 68-67 lead with 3:12 remaining.
It was the Lions' first lead of the night. They would not lose it.
Walter, who had three critical defensive boards in less than two minutes, retrieved a Robertson miss to set up the dagger.
Rambo, the junior catalyst, cut to the right edge of the lane, then whizzed a pass to senior James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) in the right corner.
With a defender closing, arm outreached, he fired a fade-away trey. It cut through the chilled air, grazed the rim and ripped the nets for a 71-67 margin. It also capping a 7-0 run. Ford, who makes 40% of his longballs, is now tied for the team lead (with Rambo) in triples with 34.
Blake Turner replied for TC with a deuce, but ‘Bo countered with a drive to the rack to give the Lions a 73-69 upper-hand with 2:15 showing.
The Steers were limited to four one-shot possessions; rebounds were claimed by Walter, Ward, Rambo and Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian). A steal by the latter led to a Rambo free throw to push the score to 74-69.
Gentry added a free throw and ended the scoring with a breakaway basket when Guidry fed him the ball.
First Half Revisited / Game Stats
The Steers opened with a 10-0 start and showed no let-up as their lead soar to 18-4, 27-13 and 37-16.
One of the few positives for the Jungle Kings was Guidry assisting a triple by Devante Dunn (Wills Point, Tx / Wills Point HS). After missing a couple of games, he has re-gained his stroke.
SAGU hung together and weathered a trifecta storm that could’ve caused a lesser team’s knees to buckle.
Robertson hit a pair, Eddren McCain, Hakeem Poles and Turner all found the range from downtown for the Steers’ 22-point high-water mark.
That’s when the Lions regrouped and closed the half with a 13-4 run.
Guidry drained a three after an assist from Rambo. Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) converted a Ford miss into a basket and Rambo cashed in a turnover by dashing the distance for a layup.
Rambo wristed a pair of foul shots and grabbed his own miss and produced a putback. Adoyi scored inside and the Lions had sliced their debt in half by the half.
A key element of the game, as it most often transpires for this team, was the impact of offensive rebounds. They turned 18 second chance opportunities into 18 points.
After shooting 33% in the first stanza, SAGU connected on 49% (17-35) in the second. They also hit four of nine three-pointers.
In the final twenty minutes the Lions held the Horns to 41% (12-29) from the field and 2-of-8 from long distance. SAGU squeezed the Bulls into 12 turnovers after they made seven in the first half.
Texas College hurt their cause when they missed 7-of-8 from the charity line and blew a few wide open shots in the clutch.
Rambo overcame a cold start to craft a 29-point game. He sank 11 of 24 shots, a pair of triples, 5-of-9 free throws, snatched five rebounds and was credited with two steals.
Ford tossed in 10 points. Coming off the bench, “Truck” has reached double-digits in 11 games. Walter and Adoyi (Ah-DOY, like ‘a boy’) racked up nine points apiece.
Ward led in the battle for the boards with nine while Walter and 'E-Man' grabbed seven apiece. In limited minutes, Guidry came away with three steals.
Texas College fabricated their bid to win with balanced scoring; Robertson led with 12, Jones had 11, McCain and Turner both bagged 10.
Jones had a game-high 18 rebounds while McCain registered five assists. The Steers managed to outboard the Lions, 44-36, though the Lions held the slightest of margins on the offensive glass, 11-10.
Big Cat-Fight on Thursday
SAGU will be back in action on Thursday night. They travel to East Texas for the third time in six days, this time to face Wiley College (11-8, 6-6 in RRAC).
The Wildcats have struggled on the road lately, going 2-4. They are no. 3 in the conference in rebounding and have four players averaging in double figures.
Following two tough losses over the weekend in Oklahoma, they figure to be especially tough on their home court.
The game is set for a 5:30pm opening tip as the school honors Title IX Night (Equal Opportunity Education Act). The women’s game will move to the prime-time, and is set to begin at 7:30pm.
Fans will be able to follow the digital, play-by-play of the accounts of the game via Live Stats. Instructions will be posted on-line prior to the game.
Lions return home Saturday at 5:00pm
After playing seven of their past eight games – and 9-of-11, the Lions begin a solid homestand on Saturday.
SAGU will host Bacone College at 5:00pm (CST).
The game will be part of the national Coaches versus Cancer fund-raising and awareness venue.
The game will be aired in HD by SAGU Sports Live that can be accessed from the home page of the university website. Click “Watch SAGU TV” to access the high definition livestream.