WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) will make just their third appearance at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournament on Thursday when they take on your St. Catharine College men’s basketball team.
For your Patriots, it’s the second trip to Kansas City.
In the big picture, we’re both new kids on the Nationals block. We also share the same school colors.
Our school, founded in 1941, is a private, Christian institution 25 miles south of Dallas in Waxahachie (pronounced WAHKS-ah-hatch-ee), population 31,000. The university, with over 60 degree programs, offers associates, bachelor's and master's degrees in liberal arts and Bible and church ministries.
Two of our sister Assembly of God colleges are here in KC; No. 6 Vanguard University (Cal) and Evangel University (Mo).
SAGU has approximately 2,100 students. In 1991 the enrollment was 591 when a spiritual revival triggered growth in all phases on campus. Over half of the existing buildings on campus have been erected in the past 15 years.
One of them, the Hagee Communication Center, houses both the music department and the media/communications studies.
SAGU remains the only known NAIA school in the nation to broadcast games in high definition on the SAGU Sports Network, which has students handling over 80% of the production roles.
Check them out on their Facebook fan page, which includes video highlights of home games.
The Lions had their first winning season since joining the NAIA in 1999. They went 27-11 two years ago in Head Coach Donnie Bostwick’s inaugural campaign. The team was 10-22 the previous season.
Last spring the Purple Pride (33-5 record) surprised many by advancing to the NAIA championship game where they lost to Georgetown College. Dominique Rambo, a 5’10 guard, was named Co-National Player of the Year.
Now a senior, he leads the attack for the team that will take on the Patriots at 4:30pm (CST) at Municipal Auditorium.
SAGU (26-5) is ranked No. 5 in the latest Top 25 Coaches Poll. They have spent the entire season in the top five. Since starting 16-1, the club is 10-4.
Rambo is averaging 23.6 points per game is third in the NAIA while his 3.44 steals per contest is second. Caleb Gentry, his senior backcourt partner, is 12th in the country in steals (2.19 spg).
The Lions backbone is their man-to-man defense. Short on size, they are fourth in the NAIA in steals and allow opponents to make just 29% of their shots beyond the arc. That is also fourth best.
SAGU shoots a lot from downtown and swish 10.1 triples per outing, third highest in the NAIA.
Rambo and Gentry (13.0 ppg) are joined by Jon Walter, a 6’4 junior guard, on the perimeter. He contributes 14.1 ppg and 6.3 rebounds.
The forwards are 6’5 sophomore, Emmanuel Adoyi ( pronounced like a-TOY), and 6’5 junior Caleb Feemster. They grab 7.4 and 6.0 rebounds respectively.
Feemster is the most accurate of the three-point snipers, making 37% of his attempts. He has made 65, one less than Rambo. Gentry has ripped the nets for treys 56 times to Walter’s 34.
Coach Bostwick plays his bench a lot, in fact, you’ll see the first wave enter the game less five minutes after the National Anthem. Only Rambo and Gentry play more than 30 minutes.
As a result the team is fresher late in games, which helps explain their 31-7 mark in games decided by nine-points of less over the past two seasons.
There are a few similarities between the two teams.
While both score about 82 points a game, which is about the middle of the 32-team pack here in KC, they both make their mark on the offensive boards.
SAGU averages 14.3 offensive caroms per game, fifth in this 32-team field; 9th nationally. St. Catharine’s 15.7 tops the field and ranks second in the NAIA.
The Patriots have suffered six defeats by nine-points or less, three by the slimmest of margins. All five of the Lions setbacks were by less than ten points.
SCC hails from the Mid-South Conference, where the University of Pikeville (30-2), defending national champion Georgetown College (22-10) and the University of the Cumberlands (19-11) finished ahead of them.
That tough-as-nails trio handed the Pats six of their losses.
SAGU completed their first year in the Sooner Athletic Conference going 17-3 against their league foes. Wayland Baptist University (23-10) topped the Lions twice in games that were tied with a minute to play.
The University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (15-15) administered the other SAC defeat, 88-80, in Chickasha, Ok.
Thursday’s game will likely come down to who shoots better, which favors St. Catharine, and who makes the least turnovers, where SAGU has the edge.
Patriots fans, good luck… but not too much!
SAGU Sports Information Director, Mark “Link” Warde, email@example.com