Lions rise to #2 in the nation
SAGU men’s basketball made university history this year by reaching the title game of what is regarded as college basketball’s toughest tournament. To win the NAIA National Championship, a team must win five games in 7 days. SAGU’s young squad, with only 2 seniors, fought their way into the Finals, marking a historic 2-year turnaround that molded the SAGU Lions into 2013 championship contenders.
Rising from a no. 35 ranking at the start of the season, the Lions clinched the Red River Athletic Conference and climbed to no. 6 in the nation—SAGU’s first-ever entry into the Top 10. SAGU was the first Red River Athletic Conference team to make the NAIA Championship game since 2006.
SAGU won a hard-fought semi-final match against no. 2 Lindsey Wilson College that was tied at 31 at the half. SAGU rallied to their most decisive win of the tournament (80-64) with a strong, second-half defense. The 16-point margin of victory was larger than the combined 13-point margin in SAGU's first three tournament games. The semifinal was broadcast on ESPN3.
Dedicated SAGU fans drove 9 hours from Waxahachie, Texas to Kansas City, Missouri, to show support as SAGU faced no. 13 Georgetown College (27-8). For 22 consecutive years Georgetown qualified for the National Championship, winning the NAIA title in 1998.
In the championship game the Lions, outsized and outrebounded, remained close against Georgetown until the last 12 minutes when the Tigers pulled away.
Junior guard Caleb Gentry shared, “The hardest thing was, I wanted to win for people who are important to me, like Dr. Leatherberry (Team Chaplain), my mom, and Coach Bostwick. I felt that God was pleased with us because we weren’t playing for ourselves.”
Despite the tough loss in the title game, the impact of this men’s basketball team on the students is clear.
One student shared, "It gave us a spark. It gave us something to believe in."
SAGU student Brooke Porter tweeted: "U may have 'lost' the final game, but y'all have WON so many fans. Y'all have brought us farther than we've ever been! @sagu #sagubasketball"
The success generated two appearances on national TV (ESPN3 and CBS), while making newscasts on DFW stations FOX and ABC. Texas Sportscaster of the Year, Dale Hansen (WFAA Ch. 8 ABC), also gave the Lions praise.
A SAGU staff member tweeted: "Even CBS notices our family atmosphere. The world notices Godly love. So proud of my school. @sagu #sagubasketball"
Rick Gosselin, a veteran sportswriter at the Dallas Morning News, posted a lengthy column on the team's exploits. To top off the evening, Gentry made the no. 4 play of ESPN Sports Center's Top 10 Plays.
The Lions completed the season with a best-ever 33-5 record. They turned heads with a 17-game winning streak, and staged a 4-0 run during the NAIA Championship Tournament.
The team loses only two seniors this year, leaving SAGU positioned for a consecutive run when the Lions join the Sooner Athletic Conference next season. Junior guard Dominique Rambo shared, "God gave us a taste of it [National Championship]. Do I want another shot at it? Absolutely!”