Erskine, defense propels No. 5 SAGU against Pilots
O'Neill, Davis, Starks provide essential lift for Team Purp
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Sparked by a solid defensive effort, the clutch performance of sophomore guard Drew Erskine (Houston, Tx / Victoria West HS, Centenary College), and a late 12-0 run enabled No. 5 ranked Southwestern Assemblies of God University to defeat No. 2 LSU-Shreveport, 83-72, tonight in the Sheaffer Center.
The two teams, who were members in the Red River Athletic Conference in recent years, share a common esteem for one another. But they compete fervently to earn victories when they meet on the court.
Tonight’s encounter featured a team with a very potent offense versus a focused squad's disciplined defense.
Still, both teams enjoyed scoring runs and countering defensive stands.
In the end SAGU outlasted the visiting Pilots.
The game was tied seven times and the lead changed hands on nine occasions, most of it occurring before recess. SAGU held the upper-hand, 38-31, at intermission.
Now 3-0, the Lions applied great pressure on the Pilots' perimeter shooters. They limited them to 11-of-41 (.268) accuracy in the first half.
Meanwhile the Lions converted 13-of-33 (.394). The Pride owned a slight 24-23 edge in rebounds, though keeping the Pilots off the offensive glass was a chore.
Heading into the game, Team Purple appeared to be outmanned. They made up for it with a unified effort that saw three substitutes’ contributions make a huge impact.
Head Coach Donnie Bostwick was in the thanksgiving spirit afterward; giving praise to God and thanks to a team of believing hoopsters.
“I am very proud of our entire team,” he said. “It was a great team effort.”
“When you believe in your team you can do some great things,” he continued. “But when you believe in our God, nothing is impossible.”
“LSUS has a great team and a great coach (Kyle Blankenship),” Bostwick pointed out. “Our staff and our team respects them a lot.”
“I also know that God blessed us with the strength and courage to overcome a worthy opponent tonight. Our goal is to play for and to glorify only One.”
The first half ended with three stops in a row by the Lions; a blocked shot inside by Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Hondo HS, Ok Wesleyan Univ), and big rebounds by Clayton O’Neill (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS) and Chase Davis (Garland, Tx / Garland Christian).
Second Half: Teams trade 12-point streaks
The Lions maintained the lead with a patient offense that attacked the seams, prying open chances to shoot.
Daniel Mills (Belton, Tx / Belton HS) was saddled with foul trouble, playing just ten minutes.
Shreveport then squeezed Gentry and Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Chr-Addison, Ranger College).
So someone else was needed to deliver.
Enter Erskine (EHR-skin). Presto!
The soft-spoken, unassuming sophomore found himself having to create his own shot, or feeding teammates in scoring position.
He sank eight of 14 shots and all four of his attempts at the foul line to net 20 points. He totaled five assists and made three steals.
The transfer from Centenary College (La) connected on six on nine shots in a second half in which he poured in 15 points.
Afterwards he deflected the credit to the Lions’ defense.
“I felt that it was a great ‘team’ win,” he said. “We were able to take LSUS out of their game. We limited their transition points and forced them to take tough, contested shots.”
“Our posts did a great job of keeping the boards even (both teams had 44 rebounds) and we were able to hold them to a low shooting percentage,” Erskine continued. “Defense won us that game.”
True. But so did a handful of critical baskets down the stretch.
The River Pilots improved their shooting in the second stanza, going 12-of-33 (.364) to finish the game at .311. Too many missed layups were costly.
Rarely does SAGU get outboarded on offense, but LSUS did the trick, 19-7. But they failed to make them count.
They also did not make up the difference from outside the arc, hitting just 6-of-30.
Determined, they overcame a 46-38 deficit with a twelve unanswered points to lead, 50-46, on a James Joseph three-pointer.
Dundrecous Nelson ripped his second trey as the blue-clad visitors were suddenly knocking ‘em down, owning a 55-51 upper-hand.
Erskine answered their knock at the door with a three-point play.
He cut across the lane and tossed in a runner, was fouled, then completed the 'and one' to ignite the Lions.
Feemster regained the lead for good, 56-55, with a pair of free throws. 8:54 remained.
Erskine spotted Gentry on the baseline. His 3-ball from the corner pocket got him going.
What would be SAGU’s reply to the Pilots’ 12-point run, saw O’Neill sink two free throws, Gentry stroke a jumper from the elbow and Ben Starks (Austin, Tx / Omaha Bryan HS, Southeastern CC) grab a rebound in traffic.
Erskine drove inside and pitched to "Big Ben" on the right block. He wheeled to the rack to extend the lead to 65-57.
The Pilots never got closer than five (77-72, 0:58) the rest of the way.
Stats by the number
Gentry finished with a game-high 24 points and five assists. Feemster accounted for 17 points, including a trio of trifectas. The junior also grabbed a game-best 14 rebounds.
O’Neill bucketed five points, while Davis and Starks each added four.
The 'Three Bucketeers' came off the bench to play a combined 58 minutes. They scored 13 and accounted for a dozen boards.
Remington Mitchell (Mansfield, Tx / Mansfield HS), a 6’8 freshman, sat for all but twelve minutes because of foul woes. He did, however, manage a transition dunk and later, blocked a shot.
Nelson had 17 points to lead the Pilots. Their top player, Brandon Davis, struggled through an off-night. He was credited with 12 points and 13 rebounds, eight coming on offense.
Free throws in the closing minutes allowed SAGU to finish 27-of-31 on the charity stripe. LSU-Shreveport was 20-of-29.
SAGU entertains Paul Quinn on Thursday
SAGU will be back in action on Thursday when they host Dallas' Paul Quinn College in a 7:30pm start.
Contact: Mark "Link" Warde, SAGU Sports Information Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 469-658-2847.