Lion Hoopsters Rally to Win, 96-90
Tonight's game vs MACU will be Livestreamed
Coach Boone's Second Half Strategy Sinks Pioneers
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma -- In-game adjustments by coaches and their ability harness the talents and willingness of their players to embody the strategic moves often spells the difference in winning and losing. Wednesday night was Exhibit A in the career of Southwestern Assemblies of God University's veteran Head Coach, Dr. Jerry Boone.
Hidden in the Lions' 96-90 defeat of Arkansas' Crowley's Ridge College was a schematic change that countered the effects of a superior rebounding team. By winning at the Central Regional, SAGU (12-18) advanced to face the host, Mid-American Christian University at 8:00pm Thursday night.
First Half Summary: Lions build 11-point lead, but trail by halftime
The Lions had vaulted to a 19-8 lead in the initial 5:30 behind a Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ of North Texas, Waco HS) three-pointer on the game's first shot. Jared Gibson (Dallas, Tx / West Plano HS) fired another, and both Nathaniel Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Connally HS) and Bosko Ognenovski (Bitola, Macedonia / State Fair Community College) scored in the paint as the Pioneers (13-16) were under siege.
Ten minutes later the lead was gone as Crowley's Ridge had regrouped to take the lead back. They focused their defense against Horne and mostly, hitched their wagon to 6'6 forward TeWayne Smith, who was having his way in the paint. Quintin Fields knocked down a trey for a 35-32 lead with 4:40 to go. Coupled with the aptly named Ethan Tallant, the pair made 11-of-14 shots as they extended their margin to 46-41 at the half.
SAGU witnessed momentum change colors. Smith was starring on offense and along with his cohorts, the Pioneers had a whopping 28-15 upper hand on the boards.
Intermission: Doctor prescribed immediate pressure
When the second half began, the Lions had changed their approach. Coach Boone had employed a strategy that had proven effective earlier in the season. They went to a smaller, quicker line-up that started pressing the Pioneers backcourt. The Lions' trapping press paid immediate dividends, forcing turnovers and six quick points.
It provided the offense with "good looks at open shots," according to Assistant Coach Jimmie Williams, as well as increased possessions as the Crowley attack began to crack. It also protected several Southwestern players who were in foul trouble, but also spent much energy. The Lions tired down the stretch.
The group that proved effective at shifting the lead and tempo had Craig Grigsby (Houston, Tx / Glenda Dawson HS), Da'Tron Harris (Waco, Tx / Waco HS) and Horne harassing the Pioneer guards, with Gibson and Ward manning-up against their big men. After forcing 11 turnovers prior to recess, the squad coerced 14 from the Coonskin Caps, mostly in early stages of the second half.
It resulted in Crowley's Ridge making just 41% of their shots in the final stanza after hitting 48% in the opening period. Meanwhile, the tactical move by Coach Boone energized the team and the offense. The Lions connected on 50% of their attempts as they poured in 55 second half points. The transition game put Southwestern in the lead, which they never lost.
SAGU took the lead, 57-50, during a 10-0 run. They tied the score at 50 on a three-point play by Grigsby, then went on top when Horne turned a steal into a 3-pt play. Ward swished two foul shots and picked Smith's pocket and cashed it in with a layup.
The lead swelled to nine on two occasions, a 3-ball by Horne and an offensive putback by Bosko, to go up 72-63 with 10:09 to play.
Crowley's Ridge storms back to deadlock the score at 81-81
In the closing moments, however, the guard-oriented Pioneers made a run. The Lions missed 10 free throws to help Crowley's Ridge turn fouls into defensive stops. They scored on second-chance points and took advantage of both Horne and Ward fouling out. They tied the score at 81 (4:38), but the resilient Lions refused to yield the lead.
Big Plays by the Purple Pride
Bosko powered in an offensive stickback to maintain the lead, 83-81 (4:16). Gibson drilled a critical trifecta to keep SAGU on top, 89-81 (3:06). Peter Dutton (Houston, Tx / Booker T. Washington HS) scored in the paint when Grigsby dished him a dime twenty seconds later to hold an 8-point margin. The Pioneers drew to within three when Kyle Oberkramer made a long-distance call, 93-90, with 1:43 showing on the clock.
Then, during back-to-back defensive series, Ognenovski turned into the Mountain Man of Macedonia, as he has been called on SAGU SPORTS Live broadcasts by announcer, Clay Scarborough.
Bosko leapt high to snare a rebound to preserve the lead. After a pair of Gibson free throws helped secure Southwestern's margin, he made his biggest play of his sophomore season. The 6-foot-9 center stole a post-entry pass at the low block to deny the Pioneers. It led to another pair of free throws, these by the freshman Grigsby, which iced the game.
Gibson, who has come on late, bucketed a game-high 24, including four treys and eight FT's. The 6'3 junior lead the defense with four thefts. Horne fought through double-teams and physical defenders to net 20. Ward, the nation's leading rebounder, was held to a season-low four boards. He compensated with 19 points, made five assists and had four steals. Dutton gave the team a great lift off the bench with a three-ball and 12 points.
Perhaps the brightest spot, however, was the play of Grigsby at point guard. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting. It was his ball distribution that brought the most praise. He was credited with four assists, though it seemed like more. Along with Ward, both had three steals.
Ognenovski tossed in six points, making all three of his shots, and yanked down a team-high seven boards. Harris and Ryan Russell (Justin, Tx / Northwest HS) each registered two points. Harris had a steal and an assist.
After the Pioneers duo of Smith and Tallant had 12 points apiece in the first half, they ended up with 18 and 16. Smith led both teams on the glass with 12 boards.
Fields accounted for 16, and both Zach Mitchell and Kyle Oberkramer bagged 12.
Southwestern made 46% of their shots, while Crowley's Ridge hit 44%. Each team had seven three-pointers. On the charity stripe, the Pioneers connected on 25-of-31 (81%), compared to SAGU's 23-of-36 for an uncharacteristically low 64%. They led the Red River Athletic Conference by making over 72% of their foul shots, which rates them #11 in the NAIA.
On the boards the Pioneers grabbed a lion share, 47-37, of the caroms.
On Deck: MACU Evangels
Southwestern plays the tourney host and #2 seed, Mid-America Christian University tonight (March 10) at 8:00pm. Should Southwestern get past the Evangels and Coach Willie Holley, they would advance to Friday's semi-finals. The Lions would face the winner of #3 seeded York College (Nebraska) and #6 Central Baptist College (Arkansas).
A winner on Friday would send SAGU to the regional finals on Saturday at 3:00pm. The #1 seed for the second straight year is Dallas Baptist University. The Patriots, who are in Division II of the NCAA, are 14-12. Last year they were eliminated in the first round by the #8 seeded SAGU Lions.