Lions arrive in KC for 3rd shot at NAIA crown
SAGU Hoops History Lesson: Recalling 2006
Team's first game is Thursday at 4:30pm vs. St. Catharine (Ky)
KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- Southwestern Assemblies of God University has been playing basketball for years. Their introduction to the NAIA occurred just 15 years (1999-2000 season) ago.
Until two years ago the Lions high-water mark for wins in a season was 27. It last happened under Head Coach Terry Bryan in the mid 1980’s when then-Southwestern Assemblies of God College posted a 27-7 mark. Winning was fairly common in the pre-NAIA era.
The first dozen campaigns under the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) banner witnessed some big wins and special performances, but finishing on the top side of .500 was not one of them.
A year after winning the National Bible College Athletic Association championship in 2005 (18-19 record) under former Head Coach Scott Vaughan, the team got another taste of success.
SAGU earned their first berth in the NAIA National Championship tournament by virtue of finishing second in the Red River Athletic Conference tourney to national power, Houston Baptist University.
The Lions, under Head Coach Jerry Boone stunned Texas Wesleyan University, 86-85, behind 36 points from Darius Howard.
The Rams (25-9) regrouped as the No. 27 seed and won the NAIA crown in Kansas City ten days later.
One night later SAGU won an RRAC semifinal date with UT-Permian Basin, 79-72. Julio Osorio and Matt Daniels netted 18 and 17 points respectively.
Despite falling to HBU in the final, 90-57, the Lions qualified for KC since the Huskies (who are now NCAA Division I) won both the regular season and the conference tournament. The tourney runner-up receives an automatic bid.
Hello Kansas City and the storied Municipal Auditorium! As the 32nd seed in the 32-team field the Lions drew top-seeded Mountain State University (WVa).
No. 1 ranked at 28-2, the Cougars rolled to an 84-64 triumph making SAGU’s stay a short one.
The back-to-back season-ending setbacks gave the Lions a 16-18 record.
Finding consistent success in the following seasons was a challenge. SAGU went 6-23 in 2007, 8-21 in 2008, 12-20 in 2009, 13-21 in 2010 and 10-22 in 2011.
That led to the hiring of Donnie Bostwick, who had gone 120-20 in four years at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, including a national title.
In his first campaign in Waxahachie the Lions experienced the largest turnaround in all of college basketball!
The team went from 10-22 to 27-11, a meteoric rise that almost landed them in Kansas City.
Instead they competed in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), which has over 120 members from the NAIA to the Divisions II and III of the NCAA.
The Lions went 2-1 at the eight-team NCCAA Nationals in Indiana, losing only to Cedarville University (Oh). The NCAA D2 Yellow Jackets stung the Lions, 74-56.
SAGU’s other wins on that stage came against California (NAIA) teams, The Master’s College, 80-73, and a thrilling 84-81 comeback over Hope International University. The Lions rallied from an 18-point second half deficit to defeat the Royals in that game.
The 2012 team was led by a young transfer in sophomore guard Dominique Rambo (17.1 ppg). Seven players on that team are on this year’s roster.
Last year the Lions began by receiving votes in the Top 25 Coaches Poll, and then methodically climbed up the rungs to No. 6 by the close of the regular season.
They racked up an 18-2 record in games decided by nine points or less and by winning their first 14 games on the road. The squad won 17 straight to clinch the Red River Athletic Conference title for the first time.
In Kansas City as the No. 6 seed, the Purple Pride carried a 29-4 mark.
In the opener against Science & Arts (Ok), they trailed for most of the game, including 40-30 in the second half. Tyler Guidry free throws tied the score at 55 before Emmanuel Adoyi scored following a steal by Jon Walter to take a lead they would not relinquish at 3:04.
Rambo swiped the ball and cashed it in as the Lions went up by four and won by the same margin, 62-58.
Facing a much bigger Martin Methodist College (Tenn) team that overcame an 11-0 start by the Lions to dominate the boards, 49-32. Down 53-48 with 4:47 to play and Rambo struggling mightily, the game turned sharply.
Swipes by Rambo and Caleb Gentry sparked a 10-0 surge that saw Rambo and Walter stroke threes for a five-point margin. Rambo poured in 19-points in the final 4:47 and finished with 28 points. Walter had 22.
In the quarterfinal against the University of Montana-Western the Lions roared to a 34-12 halftime lead and held off a frenzied rally for an 84-79 triumph. Nathaniel Ward, with two three-pointers all season, hit four in a 24-point effort. He also had 15 rebounds.
Next up for the Lions was No. 2 ranked Lindsey Wilson College (Ky). SAGU held the Blue Raiders leading scorer to an 0-for-11 night and, after a 31-31 halftime tie, rolled. The Lions led 73-55 before winning 80-64.
In the final Georgetown College (Ky) wore down the Lions with superior big men.Three of them reached double-digits in rebounds. The Lions were still within 47-40 with 14:12 remaining, but a 14-2 rally broke the game open for the Tigers. They pulled away in the closing five minutes to win with an 88-62 verdict.
Days later Rambo was named the Co-National Player of the Year with Georgetown’s Vic Moses.
This season they began at No. 5 in the Coaches Poll and the team followed with a 16-1 start.
Unswerving play kept them in the top five throughout all thirty games, even ascending to No. 1 on January 21.
Two days later they yielded their position in the crow’s nest.
Wayland Baptist University scored the final seven points of the game in the final minute for an 89-82 setback.
The Lions have proven their mettle in close games, though all five of their losses, four of them on the road, were single-digit setbacks.
SAGU is 7-1 against ranked teams and 5-3 versus teams who qualified for the NAIA national tournament.
In games decided in overtime or by nine points or less the team is 13-5. SAGU has clearly shown themselves highly effective under pressure.
During Bostwick’s three seasons they have gone 13-7, 18-2 and 13-5 in single digit outcomes; collectively 44-14 (.759). In the three previous years the Lions were 25-31 (.464) in similar settings.
Winning the Sooner Athletic Conference in their inaugural season, the Lions’ 17-3 league mark was five games better than four teams who tied for second at 12-8.
SAGU enters their third foray to KC believing for a deep tournament run.
The 32-team field includes nine teams who have made the trip at least ten times. Those veteran clubs hardly need a map to arrive in this city in the Heartland.
As for the Lions, they’re too busy navigating their way to a different promised land.
Note: The team traveled to Kansas City on Monday, arriving at 10:00pm. They have an 11:00am practice scheduled at a local high school.