SAGU is setback in national championship
Wonderful ride comes up short in second half
Lions, hundreds of fans finish proud and hungry for next year
KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- A wondrous season that witnessed the men’s basketball team from No. 6 ranked Southwestern Assemblies of God University soar higher than most ever dreamed, came up just short in an 88-62 setback to No. 13 ranked Georgetown College (Ky) in the NAIA national championship game.
The Lions (33-5), who won more games than every team except top-ranked Columbia College (35-1), battled tooth and nail against the bigger and more experienced Tigers until midway in the second half.
Georgetown led at the half, 33-26, were ahead 47-40 after a steal at midcourt by Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Hondo HS). He wrestled the ball away from a Georgetown guard, and then passed to Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School) for a breakaway basket.
With momentum and the crowd on their side, the Lions missed a wide open three-pointer from the corner and a layup on a 3-on-1 fastbreak. It was their chance to begin another classic run. The moment passed as opportunity departed.
Georgetown wiped their brow, then countered with a 14-2 run to take control of the game; 61-42 with 8:46 remaining. The Tigers' size advantage paved the way for Georgetown to dominate the paint.
They held a 33-10 advantage on the boards in the first half, and finished with a decisive 61-31 share of the rebounds. Their big men also blocked eight shots and parlayed their physical play, forcing the Lions to shoot from the perimeter.
SAGU struggled throughout the line-up to connect from the field. After making 9-of-35 (26%) in the first half, the Purple Pride made good on 15-of-49 (31%) in the second.
While the Jungle Kings sank eight three-pointers, it required 32 attempts. The free throw line also revealed unkind numbers, where the club missed 10 of 16 tries.
On the positive side, after committing just five turnovers in the first half, the Lions played error-free ball in the second. Meanwhile, SAGU forced the Tigers into 24 turnovers.
By grabbing eleven offensive rebounds after intermission, the club finished with a 20-15 edge in the key category.
The Tigers’ two dozen turnovers and the Lions twenty offensive caroms allowed SAGU to build a whopping 84-55 upper hand in shot attempts. They failed to put them in the net while their counterparts muscled their way making 58% of theirs.
SAGU, the No. 4 team in the NAIA in field goal defense, had held their first four opponents to 37% shooting.
Georgetown has qualified for the tournament for 22 consecutive years, and their 32 total appearances is the most of any school. It showed on the foul line where they calmly sank 20 of 25.
Title game recalled
The Lions vaulted out of the gate. Gentry swished the game’s first shot, taking a Rambo feed and draining triple from the left wing. Moments later Jon Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) scored a transition bucket following a Gentry steal for a 5-0 lead just ninety-five seconds into the game.
A crowd of 4,605 was on hand, including a large following from SAGU. The atmosphere in Municipal Auditorium was electric, even when the Tigers began to control the lane, scoring five times in the paint for a 17-7 lead they would not relinquish.
Rambo swished a three from the left edge of the arc, an acrobatic spinning layup by Gentry and a long trey from the right by Rambo pulled SAGU to within 17-15 at the 8:08 mark.
Senior James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) launched a trifecta from the baseline and SAGU trailed by a lone point, 19-18 at 7:36.
The Tigers replied with Monty Wilson, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He fired in a pair of threes and converted an offensive board for a 31-20 lead for GC.
The gritty Lions managed to draw to within 33-26 on two free throws by Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) and a Rambo rainbow ‘3-ball’ from the top of the key.
Second half went south
SAGU stayed within six or seven points through the early stages of the second half. A triple from Gentry followed a pass to the leftside from ‘Bo. Walter snatched an offensive carom and spotted Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian) at the top of the arc for another trey. It was 39-33 at 16:56.
A drive to the end line by Gentry found no open crease to the lane. The junior then pivoted with a spin move and netted a 12-foot jumper. The Lions trailed 41-35 with 16:06 remaining.
Rambo scored on a runner inside before Gentry’s midcourt theft led to another bucket by Rambo (47-40, 13:12) when the Tigers began to pull away.
Nwelue (pronounced like DWELL-way) would add a dunk as an offensive follow-up; Ward retrieved an offensive miss and banked in a putback. Guidry hit a short jumper and a three.
Emmanuel Adoyi (like a-TOY) (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) lasered in a shot from the elbow after Nwelue raked down an offensive carom. Gentry contributed a layup and a triple from the left wing, while ‘Bo tossed in layups and a scoop shot.
Those SAGU scores were interspersed with mini-runs by Georgetown, who continued to distance themselves with hot-shooting. The outcome was no longer in doubt.
Needing offense the resilient Lions never quit trying.
While fans of the team from Georgetown, Ky., located north of Lexington, began to chant in anticipation of their second national title, a larger contingent from Waxahachie countered in unison with chants of “SAGU.”
A night after thumping the highest remaining ranked team, No. 2 Lindsey Wilson College, 80-60, SAGU’s magical run was ending just one game shy of the desired coronation.
Lindsey Wilson (32-5) won the Mid-South Conference, sweeping third place Georgetown.
'Coach Speak' and post-game honors
Said second year Head Coach Donnie Bostwick: “The journey was amazing. God showed his faithfulness over and over again.”
“I have never been more proud of a group of young men. They have reached the stars and shined brightly for their King,” he added.
“A different player stepped up and carried us on our run this week. Tonight it just was not meant to be.”
“I praise God for his favor and I praise Him in the pit of a poor night shooting,” he admitted. “Georgetown played well tonight. I congratulate them and their staff.”
He went on to say, “I thank our administration, fans, and friends prayers and support this week.
After the game, SAGU’s sportsmanship was evident, tipping their hats to the better team on this night.
During the post-game festivities the Lions, who won the hearts of so many during their unprecedented run to the championship, were named the national recipient of the NAIA’s Champions of Character award.
Nwelue and Rambo were elected to the 10-man All-Tournament team, with Rambo also winning the Charles Stevenson Hustle Award for his effort in Kansas City.
The team in purple wanted more. No one was surprised at that.
It was their hunger, desire and wonderful chemistry that had driven these men to the largest stage in the NAIA.
That appetite, adrenaline and a character compass that points north will surely lead the future Lions to another ride in the wheelbarrow.
Post KC Notes:
Fan Welcome in Waxahachie – The team will depart from Kansas City aboard their bus at 9:00am on Wednesday for an expected 10-hour return trek to the Sheaffer Center on campus.
Gentry was featured on ESPN's Top 10 Plays of the Night at No. 4. It was a driving layup in which he scored on a backward lay-in. He finished with 15 points, second to Rambo's 23.
More follow-up coverage stories and photos will be posted at www.sagu.edu/athletics.
Click here for the game-story, posted on the NAIA website, which also includes the official Box Score: