Lions now one win away from clinching conference title
Five players score in double figures; team fires 15 triples
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OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma -- Defense wins championships. It is certainly the post that No. 5 ranked Southwestern Assemblies of God University hitches their horse. But on Saturday the team needed to add some giddy-up to their get-along.
Facing No. 14 Mid-America Christian University on the road, the Lions found the angular and athletic Evangels a tall order.
SAGU turned to their offensive armament, the three-point bomb. Already averaging 9.5 triples per game, the Lions drained 15, then of them in the second half to outlast MACU, 95-94.
Team Purple rallied from a twelve-point second half hole to lead by seven, then held off the hosts. The Evangels drew to within 92-91 on a trey with 0:11 to play.
Free throws by Jon Walter (Garland, Tx / Garland HS ) secured the lead at 95-91.
Stephen Armstrong’s three-quarter court heave at the buzzer closed the scoring.
It completed a sweep of the two games between the teams this season. Only six points separated them.
The victory left the Lions one win or a loss by Saint Gregory’s University from clinching the Sooner Athletic Conference championship.
The matchup of the first and second place teams in the SAC was a contrast in styles; MACU’s 90 points per game attack and the Pride’s tireless defense that yields 70.
When seven unanswered points gave the hosts a 62-50 advantage with 15:08 left in the game, it was time for SAGU to kick it up a notch.
Applying a quick press coaxed three turnovers from Mid-America, and, combined with a trio of threes and a layup, SAGU was back in business.
Over the next 2:47 the Lions knotted the score at 65 with a 15-3 surge. Junior guard Tyler Guidry (Houston, Tx / Westbury Christian ) delivered three consecutive trifectas and teamed with Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Trinity Christian - Cedar Hill, Okla. Wesleyan Univ ) for all fifteen points.
The teams jockeyed with the lead until Caleb Gentry (Hondo, Tx / Hondo HS, Ok Wesleyan Univ ) ripped the nets on a trey for an 82-79 upper hand with 6:07 remaining. They would never trail again.
A long Rambo rainbow helped provide the seven point advantage with 4:07 to go.
The Evangels replied with six straight when SAGU’s efficient play in the clutch manifested itself.
Emmanuel Adoyi (Little Rock, Ark / LR Parkview HS ), a 6’5 sophomore interior stopper who is often overlooked by defenses, stroked a three-ball to boost the lead to 90-86.
MACU’s Jarius Wilson and the Lions’ Gentry exchanged a pair of free throws to maintain the lead, 92-88, with twenty-five seconds flashing on the scoreboard.
Point guard Semar Farris connected on a difficult shot from the baseline corner, cutting the Lions lead to 92-91 with 0:11 to go.
His three-ball capped an outstanding effort in which he scored 32 points and passed for six helpers. In their first meeting on January 4 he netted 15 points and committed eight turnovers.
MACU fouled Walter, whose play in close games is unflappable. He knocked down two foul shots. Following a desperation miss from long distance, Walter grabbed the rebound, was fouled, then split a pair from the stripe to give SAGU a four-point lead.
The appropriately named Armstrong launched a prayer from 75 feet that was answered after the horn sounded.
His trifecta ended the game. It also shut the door on what seemed like an eternal eleven seconds.
The Lions are now 12-3 this season in games decided in overtime or by nine points or less. They were 18-2 in similar situations a year ago.
“Man, that game was a classic,” SAGU Head Coach Donnie Bostwick summarized. “It was two really good teams playing passionately.”
“They (MACU) are both super talented and well-coached,” he added.
“Coach (Willie) Holley is approaching 800 career wins. He is someone I looked up to as a young coach, first because of his faith.”
“Back then he was winning when he had limited talent,” Bostwick continued. “Now that he has talent, he is proving he is as good as any coach in the country.”
Holley, in his 41st season at Mid-America, has racked up 783 victories. That ranks second all-time in the history of the NAIA.
“We had two big runs in the game,” Bostwick explained, “and both were sparked by our bench.”
“Daniel (Mills) and Big Rem (Remington Mitchell) came up big in the first half. But the second half belonged to Tyler (Guidry).”
The coach praised Guidry for the way he has battled adversity this year, adding “I’m so glad to see him playing so well.”
“Bo, Hondo (Gentry), Jon and “E” (Adoyi) were their normal warrior selves,” he pointed out. “They make a way when there isn't one.”
“God deserves so much glory and credit for how we finish games. Strength and courage while in the fire is uncommon.”
The Lions have produced a 43-12 (.782) record in three seasons in games decided by single digits.
They are nearly as efficient as a bear trap when the outcome is in doubt.
The 15 three-pointers was achieved without a single one made by the team’s long-distance sniper, Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Chr-Addison, Ranger College ). He started and shot only once before retiring quickly due to an injury. He has 60 triples this season.
SAGU had five players in double figures, led by Rambo. He bucketed 24 points that included a 5-of-9 effort from beyond the arc.
Gentry totaled 19, going 4-of-6 from downtown.
Then there was Guidry. The Houston native made all four of his attempted threes and finished 7-of-8 overall for a career-best 18 points.
Walter’s stat line was impressive. The junior forward had sixteen points on 6-of-11 shooting and a team high five assists.
Adoyi (pronounced like ‘a TOY’) had a similar effort; 12 points, nine boards and four assists.
Both teams connected over half of their shots; MACU was at 52% with SAGU going 35-of-66 for 53%. The Lions made half of their 30 attempts from long distance and were 10-of-14 on the charity stripe.
Rarely outrebounded, 41-29, the Pride was also topped on the offensive glass, 19-10. They made only 11 turnovers while forcing 16.
Six-foot-six, senior Josh Minner supported MACU’s Farris with a career high 22 points. He made all nine of his shots, grabbed four offensive boards and was credited with four assists. It was a solid effort from a player with an 8ppg career average.
MACU led at intermission, 49-44, thanks to a pair of three-pointers in the final three seconds. They once led by nine in the first half.
SAGU was in arrears, 36-29, when Rambo produced six points during a 13-2 run to propel SAGU into the lead at 42-38.
A closing 11-2 spurt during the last two minutes regained the lead at recess for the hosts. Farris knocked down a trey with three seconds remaining before Armstrong intercepted the inbounds pass and heaved an improbable bomb at the buzzer.
In the second half, however, it was the Lions with a barrage of fire that took its toll on the Evangels.
A 19-point swing, from down by 12 to leading by seven, proved to be enough to hold off a very worthy opponent.
Final 5 Games begins at home on Tuesday
SAGU has five games left in the regular season; four of them inside the friendly confines of Sheaffer Center.
On Tuesday they host Northwood University at 8:00pm (CST). The game will air in HD on the SAGU Sports Network. A win will crown the Lions as Jungle Kings of the SAC.
The team will entertain Wayland Baptist University on Saturday, February 22. The game has an earlier than normal tipoff at 3:00pm.
The Pioneers (18-8), who handed SAGU an 89-82 defeat last month, continue their hot play.
Contact: Mark “Link” Warde, SAGU Sports Information Director, at email@example.com or at 469-658-2847.
Special Thanks: Photo at the top is courtesy of the Sports Information office at MACU.
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