Lions ride Rambo's 43, topple Rams, 98-83
Rainbow of threes end in pot 'o gold
Monday 5pm Finals: SAGU (29-3) meets St. Thomas (27-5)
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Irish folklore tells the tale of a diminutive, brightly colored character who collects gold coins in a crock at the base of a rainbow.
The mythical creature is just a fable.
On Saturday night, many observers may have gotten a glimpse of a modern day parallel in one, Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Okla. Wesleyan University, Trinity Christian School). The 5-foot-10 junior guard came to the Red River Athletic Conference tournament dressed in bright green.
The national leader in steals produced his own rainbow in the form of his long, high-arching shots. Many of them appeared to come through the clouds before being deposited through a copper-colored cylinder.
Rambo enjoyed one his brightest nights ever when his team was also clicking on all cylinders in a 98-83 triumph over Texas Wesleyan University.
The win advances the Lions (29-3) to Monday night’s 5:00pm tournament championship game against the University of St. Thomas (27-5).
Wesleyan (21-11), who entered this season enjoying a 29-2 mastery of SAGU, dropped their third straight meeting to the Purple Pride.
The Rams may have been spent from their dramatic, 101-92 victory over Our Lady of the Lake University the night before.
Rambo capped a 15-1 run by the Lions, which opened up a 38-21 lead in a span of 4:46, with a tall, curving three-ball, his only score of the rally.
SAGU widened their lead to 48-26 and were shooting 57% as a team at the time.
Efficiently distributing the ball with their motion offense, the Lions controlled the tempo of the game as well as their share of the rebounds.
Coach Donnie Bostwick’s club held the Rams at bay the rest of the night. Well, almost all of the Rams.
Senior Oscar Griffin finished with his best career performance, netting 40 points. He made 12-of-18 shots, including 7-of-10 from long distance. The 6’4 guard from Philadelphia also grabbed 10 rebounds.
This magical night, however, belonged to the Lions and Rambo in particular.
He stopped and popped four-of-seven trifectas in each half, and totaled a career-best 43 points before Bostwick pulled him with three-minutes remaining and Team Purp holding a 93-73 lead.
During one segment he dialed up three consecutive long-distance calls – each were answered - and added a knifing layup as the SAGU advantage swelled to 26 points (76-50) with 8:43 left in the game.
The Lions received stellar play from their forwards, Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Connally HS), Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) and Jon Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS).
The three shoveled rebounds like stokers scooping coal into a locomotive.
They combined for 28 of the team’s 42 boards, often fueling the offense with outlet passes to Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Okla. Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS), Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian) and Rambo.
The trio of big men soared to reel in 12 of the team’s 17 offensive rebounds.
Walter and Nwelue, both sophomores, had it going with a blend of power and finesse on defense and offense. Walter hit a pair of treys as well as a contested, one-handed jam in transition.
Nwelue (like DWELL-way) connected on 6-of-9 attempts, ranging from two 15-foot wristers, a pair of turn-around jumpers and two screaming dunks.
One of the latter came during a 3-on-3 break when Rambo, on the left wing, pulled up for a three. He looked to his left while lifting a no-look lob to his right. Nwelue’s hammered the ball so fiercely that it bounced off the ground well ahead of his touching down.
Walter and Nwelue jump-started the Pride with four points apiece to begin their 15-1 burst in the first half.
Wesleyan answered the Lions’ efficient offense in the second half, but couldn’t sustain a run long enough to draw closer than 15-points.
Supporting Rambo’s 43 point eruption, were Nwelue, Gentry and Walter with 16, 14 and 13 points respectively.
'Bo's 43 were short of the SAGU record of 50 set in the 1990's by power forward Robbie Shay; the current Head Coach of women's basketball at Bacone College.
It was the Lions' best outing since Ronald Horne torched Bacone for 40 points two years ago. His encore was 39 points three nights later against Paul Quinn College.
Walter led with 11 rebounds, while Nwelue and Ward had nine and eight caroms.
Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS), a defensive stopper, added six points and a pair of big blocks in the paint. His play was limited to twelve minutes due to foul trouble.
Previewing Monday's Championship
Monday’s appearance in the conference tournament final is just the second time in history the Lions have advanced as far. In 2006 they took on regular season champion Houston Baptist University (now D1 members in the NCAA).
While the Huskies rolled past the Lions, 90-57, SAGU had already clinched their first-ever berth in the NAIA tournament in Kansas City. As the no. 32 seed, the Lions succumbed to no. 1 Mountain State University (WVa) (29-3), 84-64, in the first round.
The Purple Pride will again face a formidable foe from Houston in no. 29 ranked St. Thomas.
The game will pit two of the best defensive teams in the nation. The Lions and Celts (pronounced Kelts) rank no. 2 and no. 4 in the NAIA in field goal defense, holding opposing teams to .376 and .380 shooting accuracy.
Shutting down opponents’ long-range shooters beyond the arc is where the red-clad guests are most effective. They lead the nation by holding the opposition to .284 effectiveness from downtown.
Both clubs are cohesive in their style, and are disciplined and hungry. If recent history is an indicator, points will be at a premium on Monday.
The Lions won earlier in Waxahachie, 78-73, and rallied from a late seven-point deficit to edge the Celts, 53-48, in H-town on February 9.
SAGU and HoUSTon have met nine times in the past four seasons, with Southwestern, on the strength of four consecutive triumphs, holding a 5-4 series edge.
The Lions are 4-1 at home while they are 1-3 at the Celts' Jerabeck Athletic & Activities Center.
The average score in the series has the Lions scoring 64.2 to the Celts 62.4. (Scores posted below)
Three-point success was experienced by both teams in the first game, with SAGU making 11 and UST swishing 10. That was not the case in the latest clash when the Lions were held to 3-of-19 (16%) and the Celts to 4-of-17 (23%).
SAGU managed to hit just 16-of-62 shots (26%), but countered by controlling the glass, 47-42, snatching 18 offensive caroms, as well as knocking down 18-of-25 free throws.
Individually, St. Tom’s has an impressive line-up under Head Coach Todd Smith, a former Assistant Coach at Rice University.
Point guard Travis Lampley is perhaps the best in the country. He scores 12.7 points per game and leads the NAIA in assists at 9.7 apg.
Forward Caleb Williams, a 6’5 senior, can light it up. He scores a team-best 15.1 ppg. His 45% eye from threesville is among the national leaders.
Proletariat Bryan Kaase (KAH-see), a 6’4 senior, scores 13.9 ppg and averages 7.4 rebounds.
Both teams have already punched their tickets to Kansas City for the NAIA nationals and would love to claim their first conference tournament crown.
St. Thomas and SAGU each have a lion as their mascot, and on Monday they'll decide which is the king of the jungle.
Media: Video HD Broadcast, LiveStats Webcast
Fans can view the game on SAGU Sports Live in HD, where the pre-game show starts at 4:45pm. Visit www.sagu.edu/tv for free access. Tim Roberts will host the broadcast.
(Scores listed with most recent games first) Team W-L Record in parenthesis.
2012-13 (SAGU 29-3) (UST 27-5)
W 53-48 Away
W 78-73 Home
2011-12 (SAGU 27-11) (UST 18-13)
W 67-60 RRAC Tournament at SAGU
W 72-55 Home
L 68-76 Away
2010-11 (SAGU 10-22) (UST 13-14)
L 59-64 Home
L 56-71 Away
2009-2010 (SAGU 13-21) (UST 9-15)
W 66-48 Home