Lions, Rambo catch fire late, top Hawks, 72-68
Lions advance to quarterfinals with comeback win
Team faces Montana Western on Saturday
KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- Facing a physically imposing team and a five-point deficit with 4:47 remaining, Southwestern Assemblies of God University stared defeat in the eye, then erupted for a 12-2 run and held off Martin-Methodist College, 72-68, for a Second Round triumph at the NAIA National Tournament.
Muffled for much of the game, junior point guard Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School) detonated for 19 points in less than five minutes to lead the Lions to another comeback win.
Now 31-4, SAGU has advanced to the quarterfinals on Saturday when they will meet no. 14 ranked University of Montana Western, an 83-73 upset winner over no. 3 seeded Lee University (Tenn). The Bulldogs (24-9) pulled away from a 57-57 tie to eliminate the Flames (30-4).
The outcome was in jeopardy when Justin Blake made a long three-point basket from the right side to give the RedHawks a 53-48 advantage. Martin had seized control on the strength of a 49-32 share of the boards, including 20 on the offensive glass.
Davie Champagnie (da-VEE-A SHAMP-uh-KNEE) (6’8, 220) and Jeremy Rodgers (6’5, 253), a pair of immovable redwoods, combined for 25 caroms, 14 on offense. The duo gave the leaner, athletic Lion forwards fits in the first half, when they had 14 boards, nine of them claimed from the offensive window.
The Lions made amends at halftime. Champagnie scored 12 in the game; none after intermission. Defusing their rampant access to errant shots, they didn’t score on a putback for the first 13 minutes of the second half. That adjustment allowed SAGU to stop the bleeding.
Martin Methodist had to overcome a quick 11-0 deficit to start the game by pounding the ball inside. They cleaned up all misses by scoring 15 points directly on follow-up shots to lead at the break, 32-28.
SAGU countered by holding their own on the boards in the second; MMC had a 21-17 edge in rebounds, yet the Lions still found themselves in arrears going down the stretch.
The junior had missed 12 of his first 15 shots, giving little reason to expect a magical finish. Fans of the Purple Pride, however, have seen his act before. Call it deja ‘Bo.
Held without a basket in the first sixteen minutes, Rambo had just five points in the first half. He ended up with a game-high 28 points.
“It’s been the same thing all year,” said a victorious Head Coach Donnie Bostwick. “Our guys have no fear. They trust in each other and the Lord, which makes us a winner no matter the score.”
“Right now we are enjoying the journey and doing our best to glorify God by our play,” he added.
As for Rambo’s catalytic play in the clutch, “Bo does what he does. He gets calmer as the game goes along, which is uncommon.” Simply, ditto Rambo.
The key to the game was answering the RedHawks control of the backboard.
“When our big men were able to block out their bigs, I knew that we had a shot,” said Bostwick.
A prelude of Rambo’s ending came when he was credited with a steal with just less than eight minutes on the clock. He dove near the scorer’s table, tipping the ball to a speeding Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS). He converted Bo’s hustle into a breakaway layup to knot the score at 46.
After sinking two free throws at 4:35, the Hawks replied with two FT’s by 6’5 point guard, Josh Watson. It was 55-50 with 4:29 to go when Rambo kicked it up another notch.
The mohawked wonder drove into the teeth of the defense and netted a reverse layup along the baseline. Moments later he stole the ball on the wing and went the distance to draw to within a point.
During the Lions next possession, from about 26-feet out, he appeared to be looking to pass inside. A defender backed off, freeing him to launch a long-range missile. It tickled the twine and SAGU had a 57-55 lead they would not relinquish with 3:31 showing on the Municipal Arena clock.
The Hawks were settling for outside shots, leading to a defensive board by Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS). He threw long for Walter, who stopped and popped a dagger-like triple at 2:39. The 12-2 run pushed the lead to 60-55.
Martin Methodist scored inside and on a three-ball by Demario Williams, sandwiching another Rambo reverse layup. The Flyers were within 62-60 at the 1:30 mark.
The teams exchanged turns with the ball before Rambo was fouled (0:42). He made the first free throw only to have the ensuing try rollout. There to grab the rebound was Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS). That led to another MMC foul and two more foul shots by Rambo for a 65-60 margin.
A traveling call against the RedHawks preceded Emmanuel Adoyi’s (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) two free throws for a 67-60 lead at 0:31.
Martin’s Williams knocked down two treys in the closing seconds in between Rambo making 5-of-6 from the charity stripe.
First Half Summary: Flyin' Lions vault to 11-0 lead
The game started fast for the Lions. Walter ripped the nets on a pair of trifectas, one from the left wing, the second from the corner on an assist from Rambo.
Gentry fired a line-drive trey after a long outlet pass from Nathaniel Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS). Keeping the 11-0 lead would be tough once the RedHawks big men started eating up the boards.
MMC went on a 14-4 run to trail by one, when Gentry stole the ball, parlaying his good fortune into a 3-bomb. Walter scored his tenth point when he feathered a 10-foot baseline jumper for a 20-14 lead.
Threes from Gentry and Rambo allowed SAGU to hold a 28-26 lead with 3:18 remaining in the first half, but Martin would produce the final six points of the half.
The score would be tied six times in the game and the lead would change hands on six occasions.
After swishing 8-of-26 (.308) shots in the first half, the Lions regrouped to convert 14-of-31 (.452) after recess. They ripped the nets for 10-of-23 from long distance.
From the foul line the Lions were 18-of-24 (.750).
Finishing strong, an attribute of the Purple Pride, was reflected in their turnover total. They lost the ball 14 times, just four in the second half.
Rambo’s total of 28 included 12-of-16 from the foul line. He was credited with four assists and five steals.
Walter racked up a career-best 22 points, connecting on 7-of-11 attempts and four-of-six triples. His previous high was 21 against Jarvis Christian College.
The 6’4 combo guard/forward averaged 8.5 points per game through the first 25 games of the season, reaching double digits seven times. In the last seven games he has six double-figure showings and is averaging 15.6 ppg.
Gentry registered a trio of treys without a miss and scored 11. He also had five steals to key a defense to forced 18 turnovers.
Adoyi led the team in rebounds with eight. Gentry grabbed five, while Nwelue, Ward, Rambo and Walter all had four.
Martin Methodist placed four in double figures, led by Rodgers. He poured in 17 points and yanked down 14 boards. Champagnie also had a double-double at 12 and 11.
They Said It: Quotes from the frontlines
It was the team’s second win in Kansas City, each closed with a stellar second half. Nwelue said, “It took us time to adjust to their big guys. They reminded us a lot of Paul Quinn College.”
“At halftime my teammates encouraged me to not quit and to be more aggressive,” he added. “Coach Bostwick instills in us a drive to finish strong and to make three (defensive) stops in the clutch.”
As for Rambo? “It was just a matter of time. That was Rambo for ya.”
Adoyi, whose nickname is “E-Man,” said of Rambo’s finish: “He is the man.”
Martin-Methodist entered the game having won 13 of their past 14 games, winning the TranSouth Athletic Conference.
Their first year Head Coach Scott Combs shared his thoughts afterwards.
“This was a hard-fought loss against an extremely talented team. I give a lot of props to our guys for hanging in there against the no. 6 team in the land,” quipped Combs.
“SAGU deserves a lot of credit for this win. This one stings,” he continued. “You don’t forget losses like this. But I could not be more proud of our guys’ effort today.”
A preview of the Lions next game will be posted tonight.
Click here to read the game report from the NAIA website, as well as to access the Box Score.