KANSAS CITY, Missouri — When the starting quintet takes to the floor this afternoon in their first round at the NAIA National Championship tournament, there should be no surprises for No. 5 Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
Head Coach Donnie Bostwick will go with the five who brought the team to the ‘big stage.’
Senior guards Dominique Rambo and Caleb Gentry provide the vrrroooom to the Lions engine. Those two are known as much for their defense as they are their offense.
The dynamic duo ranks in the Top 12 nationally in steals, which held fuel the offense. Neither are reluctant to launch three-pointers.
'Bo supplies back-breaking big plays and Hondo's grinding, hustling, energy is huge.
Jonathan Walter plays a hybrid role at wing (guard) and small forward. The junior is cool, calm and collected and clutch under pressure.
Caleb Feemster, one of two 6’5 forwards, has been quiet lately. He is the most accurate from beyond the arc. Look for the junior to show flashes of his previous play today.
Emmanuel Adoyi, sophomore forward, is the team’s best interior defender. He is athletic and very dependable.
A big concern for SAGU is foul trouble, especially at forward. Three who have collected a lot fouls this season are Gentry, Walter and Adoyi. That could pose a problem if more than one is riding the pine due to personal fouls.
Fans can watch a handful of reserves to enter the fray seeking to play the needed role of key contributor. The candidates are very capable;
Tyler Guidry - junior guard. Mid-range jumpers, penetrating drives and passes enable the left-hander. He has become the top producer off the bench.
Daniel Mills - can play both guard and forward, and his shooting touch is clear. The freshman made two big shots in the conference tournament.
Drew Erskine - a heady, sophomore guard is a good ball-handler and an intelligent player. Seldom takes a bad shot.
A few who could supply a solid lift include Dre’ Crear, a guard who is capable of knocking down triples from downtown, and 6’8 Remington Mitchell. “Big Rem” leads the club in blocking shots.
Those are the likely frontline players. On occasion Bostwick will call the numbers 45 for Clayton O’Neill and 14 for Chase Davis. Both are confident triggers from long distance though if they are placed on the court it may be for rebounding or defense.
St. Catharine is a very worthy opponent. Teams in the Mid-South Conference know just how tough thy can be, especially on the boards. Their strength will likely cause some problems for the Lions, who are not as tall or as strong.
Watch for the Patriots to try to get inside the paint and to take advantage of the Lions’ lack of size.
SAGU will counter with defense and three-point bombs.
KANSAS CITY, Missouri — While SAGU nation chomps at the bit to see how their Lions fare at the NAIA National Championship 32-team tournament, they are not alone in terms of Assemblies of God colleges.
NAIA Division I
Vanguard University (Costa Mesa, Cal) is the No. 6 seed. At 27-6 they will play Life University (Ga) on Wednesday at 5:15pm. It is the second appearance for the Lions.
Evangel University (Springfield, Mo) takes on high-scoring Talladega College (Ala), the No. 7 seed. The Crusaders bring a 23-10 mark into the tourney. Evangel has been to KC five times.
The ‘Saders and Tornadoes play at 2:15pm on Thursday.
As for the SAGU Lions, this is their third trip to this city in the Heartland. The squad is the No. 5 seed and is toting a 26-5 won-lost record. Their first round opponent is St. Catharine College (Ky), who are 18-12.
The Lions and Patriots tip it off at 4:30pm (CST) on Thursday.
NAIA Division II
Southeastern University (Lakeland, Fla) made their first-ever foray into the D2 tournament, which was held last week at Point Lookout, Missouri.
The Fire, at 24-6, advanced to the Final Four where they fell to Indiana Wesleyan, 98-77, in the semi-finals on Monday.
They eliminated Huntington University (Ind), 84-76, before toppling the defending national champion Cardinal Stritch University (Wisc), 71-70. In the quarterfinals they clipped No. 9 Davenport University (Mich), 67-64.
Led by Head Coach R-Jay Barsh, Southeastern finished at 27-7.
Led by a turbo-charged backcourt, the SAGU Lions men’s basketball team has returned to Kansas City for a second consecutive season and third time overall.
After roaring to the championship game a year ago - where they came up short to Georgetown College, the Purple Pride looks to make its mark with an encore in 2014.
Moving from the Red River Athletic Conference to the tougher Sooner Athletic Conference in the fall, the Lions had their work cut out for them.
Not only did they win the SAC, but finished five games ahead of the pack.
The team’s 26-5 mark includes a 13-5 effort in games decided by 9 points or less or in overtime. The defeats came by nine, seven, eight, seven and one point; four of them on the road.
SAGU went 15-1 at home and 11-4 on the road. Only one other SAC team, John Brown University (7-6), won more than they lost away from home.
The strength of the team is a cohesive unit built on faith, trust and servant leadership. Coming from behind or executing in close games is where they have proven their mettle.
Over the past two years they are 31-7 in games with a margin of less than ten points.
The team foundation is an unrelenting defense that is especially tough on the perimeter. On offense, the Lions M.O. is passing, three-pointers, limiting turnovers and crashing the boards without helmets!
Consistent, high-energy production has seen the Pride spend the entire season ranked between No. 1 and No. 5. They are 7-1 against ranked teams.
How far they advance in the tournament will be as much about how they match-up against their draw as it does their performance in the clutch.
One thing fans can be sure of… this team will never stop believing!