Lions made more than history
Bucketeers shine brightly on national stage
Of the title game, Rambo says: "God gave us a taste of it!"
Review of All 5 Tourney Games
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Following the unprecedented drive to the top, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team, before feeling like reflecting on their accomplishments, want to learn from their last performance.
During the return bus trip from Kansas City, several shared their views of what happened in the NAIA championship game loss, 88-62, to no. 13 ranked Georgetown College (Ky).
The success generated two appearances on national TV (ESPN3 and CBS), while also making the newscasts on DFW stations FOX and ABC. Texas Sportscaster of the Year, Dale Hansen (WFAA Ch. 8 ABC), also gave the Lions praise.
Rick Gosselin, a veteran sportswriter at the Dallas Morning News, posted a lengthy column on the play of Metroplex prep standouts on the Lions while trumpeting the team's exploits.
The Lions, who finished the regular season ranked no. 6 in the nation, completed the season with a best-ever 33-5 record. The final Top 25 Coaches Poll will be released on Wednesday, March 27.
A season in which the team turned heads during a 17-game winning streak, proved legit with a 4-0 run during the NAIA nationals, including three remarkable efforts. During each triumph a different player rose to the forefront with an extraordinary outing.
Game One: SAGU 62-58 over USAO
The Lions started with a blue-collar, 62-58, comeback against no. 26 ranked University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (USAO). Led by a defense that roped the Drovers into 27 turnovers, SAGU overcame a 12-point first deficit to win by shutting down the Wranglers in the final ten minutes.
Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / Parkview HS) was a defensive force and both Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS), who led with 19 points, and Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian), with 10 points, rose to the occasion late in the game.
Game Two: SAGU rallies past Martin Meth, 72-68
Rallying from a five-point deficit with less than five minutes remaining against a red-hot no. 20 ranked Martin Methodist College team who had won 13-of-14, caught everyone’s eye.
Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Trinity Christian School), who was held to 3-of-15 shooting until the 4:47 mark, gushed for 19 points to finish with 28 in a 72-68 win.
Rock-solid throughout the game was the play of 6'4 sophomore flyer Jonathan Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS). The forward poured in 22 points and drained four triples in keeping SAGU in the game against the larger RedHawks.
Without his performance, there would've been no comeback.
Game Three: SAGU coasts by Western, 84-79
The quarterfinal win, 84-79, over a no. 13 ranked University of Montana Western team was inspiring.
Building a 24-point lead the Lions staved off a late rally to advance to the semi-finals. Team Purp still lead by 20 with just under ten minutes on the clock.
Western had just stunned the no. 3 seed, Lee University (Tenn), 83-73, the night before.
Nathaniel Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS) donned his senior Superman cape as he bucketed a career-high 24 points while laying claim to 15 rebounds.
With just two three-pointers all season, the 6-foot-5 forward drained four from long-distance, then broke the Bulldogs late with a pair of highlight reel dunks.
Three others also scored in double-digits.
Game Four: SAGU whips no. 2 ranked Lindsey Wilson, 80-64
While the nation looked in on ESPN3, the Lions slew no. 2 ranked Lindsey Wilson College (Ky) in the Fab Four semi-finals. The 80-64 verdict saw the Lions rally for a 31-31 halftime tie, and then roared the rest of the way.
Nwelue had his best showing of the season with 21 points, punctuated with three slam dunks, the last burying the Blue Raiders (32-5). The athletic forward connected on 9-of-13 shots, turning the Raiders inside and out.
Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ., Hondo HS) and Walter knocked down treys for a 46-43 lead and a Ward breakaway jam extended the lead to 18.
Guidry also stepped up with 13 critical points and the Lions held the Raiders’ All-American guard Kalen Kimberland without a basket in an 0-for-11 effort.
Game Five: SAGU falls to Georgetown, 88-62
In the championship game the Lions, outsized and outrebounded, remained close against no. 13 Georgetown College until the last twelve minutes. That’s when the Tigers, making their 22nd consecutive trip to KC, pulled away from a 47-40 lead to post a solid 88-62 triumph.
Rambo had 23 points and Gentry netted 15. Even though the Lions made a season-low five turnovers, held a +29 advantage in shot attempts and forced 24 turnovers, Georgetown dominated the boards and imposed their physical will down the stretch.
The Lions were also ice cold, connecting on just 28% of their shots.
Quotes from the Frontline
What happened to the magic and scintillating play SAGU had displayed for so much of the season?
Three players and coach Garrett Jones shared their point of view on a toned-down bus ride on Wednesday’s 585-mile return trip.
Garrett Jones, Assistant Coach
“In short, we didn’t hit our shots,” Jones said. “They kept us off the boards and our free throws (6-of-16) hurt us.”
“Their big guys played without fear of drawing fouls and players who don’t normally make free throws, did,” he explained.
“Give them credit,” said the second year Assistant Coach, “they played their game and executed better than us.”
“In a game at that level you need five guys to play good and one to play great. We had that performance in the first four games, but not on Tuesday.”
Dominique Rambo, Junior Guard
SAGU’s sparkplug, Rambo, was contrite and took his share of the blame.
“Our bigs (forwards, centers) got into foul trouble early,” he said. “It allowed them to play as physical as they wanted. Plus, we weren’t able to prevent their big guys from catching the ball on offense.”
“Our shots didn’t fall all night and I didn’t attack the rim in the first half. I waited too long to take it to them.”
Named to the All-Tournament Team afterwards, Rambo went on to admit, “(things) just didn’t go our way, the balls, the shots, the calls. We did everything we could. It was just their night.”
Rambo managed 23 points, but it took a season-high 29 shots to get them.
The wearer of the feared mohawk confessed the outcome “makes me hungry! We did everything we could. We did the right things, but we were just cold. And I was cold.”
The junior then added a line, along with the sparkle that attracts fans like honey does bees, “But God gave us a taste of it. Do I want another shot at it? Absolutely!”
Mike Nwelue, Sophomore Forward
Nwelue (like DWELL-way), a 6’5 sophomore with ups who throws down, waxed most eloquent and was most humble.
“Experience won it this time,” he surmised, speaking of the tournament savvy Tigers.
He then spoke of his own play, which saw him miss his first nine shots.
“I usually start (shooting/scoring) inside, and then go outside,” he lamented. “What was strange; they all felt good when I released them. They just didn’t fall.”
"It hurt our attack,” he said. “My (turnaround) jumpers and mid-range game forces opponents’ big men to come out and guard me, which would have helped us on the boards.”
He went on to say that "we worked hard to let God shine through us, even in our off-game. We never quit. We do need to get stronger in the off-season. We want to come back.”
Nwelue, who joined Rambo on the All-Tournament Team, pointed out how the media (TV) timeouts (four per half, in addition to each team’s six timeouts) “…allowed them to rest their bigs.”
“We wanted to push the ball upcourt and wear them down. They couldn’t keep up with us had we rebounded better. We just didn’t get the boards.”
“We had plenty of open looks and a lot of shots,” he added. “Maybe we weren’t patient enough.”
Caleb Gentry, Junior Guard
For Gentry, a junior guard, the “Hardest thing was, I wanted to win for people who are important to me; like Dr. (David) Leatherberry (Team Chaplain), my mom, and for our Head Coach (Donnie) Bostwick.”
“I felt that God was pleased with us because we weren’t playing for ourselves.”
“This is very hard for us. I felt like we deserved to be there. We work so hard to be unselfish on the court; to share, to get the ball to whomever has the best shot.”
“I know our guys’ hearts and motives, and I dig them all.”
“This should only make us stronger as young men and as a team.”
SAGU’s off-season began the day after they returned to Waxahachie with another program at a different elementary school. Or, as Coach Bostwick refers to service projects, “another chance to shine.”
This week the coaches begin player evaluations of the just-completed season. Recruiting kicks into high gear as potential players visit the campus and meet the current team.
With a taste from the top, the Lions, now wearing a target after their title run, are eager for an encore.
Fans: Watch throughout the off-season for extended coverage of SAGU hoops, which will include post-season honors, video highlights, more action photos and recruiting news.