By: Calvin Bass, Wayland Baptist (Texas) Assistant Director of Marketing and Public Relations
PLAINVIEW, Texas - Wayland Baptist recorded one of its biggest victories in program history, scoring the last seven points of the game and knocking off No. 1 Southwestern Assemblies of God University on Thursday night in Hutcherson Center, 89-82.
The Pioneers (13-5, 4-4 SAC) had lost their last three games – all on the road after cracking the Top 25 – going into the game against the Lions (16-2, 9-1), who on Tuesday jumped to their first-ever No. 1 ranking.
Wayland led almost the entire game, by as much as 15 points with just over six minutes left. But the Lions slowly worked their way back in the game.
Still down double-digits with less than five minutes to go, the Lions let the crowd of more than 400 that they were not even close to being done. Jonathan Walter knocked down a three with 4:49 remaining before SAGU hit made a pair of free throws on its next possession.
With the full court press in full effect, the Lions forced one of their 17 turnovers and promptly knocked down another three-pointer, cutting the lead to 77-71 by scoring eight unanswered points in just 35 seconds.
“When you look at SAGU’s success over the last two years, you see the way that Coach Bostwick gets them to pressure,” head coach Matt Garnett said of his counterpart’s press. “The thing our guys did best is have a short-term memory, they played the next play.
“Sometimes the momentum failing against a press can kill you. We turned it over a few times and they got back in the game late, but you saw that our guys were poised and maintained their belief in what they were doing. That’s what I’m most proud of tonight.”
With 3:45 left to play, Donnie Bostwick, SAGU’s head coach, instructed his team to foul to slow the game down before it was too late. Wayland answered the challenge, knocking down five of its next eight free throws.
The Lions wasted no offensive possession, however, and made a three-pointer with 2:43 left, cutting the Pioneers’ six-point lead in half.
Senior Travis Payton went one-for-two from the charity stripe, but SAGU made a quick layup, then forced a turnover with to have its first chance to even the score since the first half. Dominique Rambo, the leading scorer in the Sooner Athletic Conference, scored two of his team-high 22 points off a jumper to tie the score up, 82-82, with 1:33 to go.
That’s when the Pioneers came through and finished the job.
Barry Johnson, Travis Payton, Markus Monroe and Plamen Hristov all made free throws in the final 68 seconds, with Monroe connecting on the only field goal of the game down the stretch.
Johnson ended with 25 points and Hristov 23 as both players made five 3-pointers, season highs for both. Garnett was very pleased with the performance of his top-two scorers on Thursday.
“The last three of four days Barry has done a great job in practice,” he said. “He’s worked extremely hard and he prepared very well so he was due after going through a tough stretch. What we saw from Barry tonight was a matter of him bringing what he’s been working on in practice to the game.
“Plamen, he’s a shot maker. He’s a guy that has worked extremely hard from day one to do what we needed him to do. In the last few games we’ve seen the player that he is, and he has earned the right to do what he’s doing. Tonight he stepped up in a lot of different ways by making big shots and rebounding the ball very well.”
Monroe added 18 points and 10 rebounds while Bunja Yaboe finished with eight points and a game-high 14 boards.
SAGU was led by Rambo’s 22 points, Caleb Feemster’s 18 and Caleb Gentry’s 12.
The Pioneers shot 36 percent (10-of-28) from 3-point range as part of their overall 43 percent effort (26-of-61) from the field. Wayland made 27-of-39 free throws (69 percent).
Garnett was beyond impressed with his squad’s performance on Thursday and credited the win with the work ethic of his guys.
“Our guys have done a great job of continuing to prepare for the next opponent and be at our best when the game starts,” he said. “SAGU has some really great players that have been there and won a lot of games. In order to beat them you have to be really good for 40 minutes.
“Our guys stayed to the game plan and kept believing. Even when things were going against us they stayed on course.”
Wayland returns to action at 3 p.m. Saturday at home against Northwood University (4-10, 3-6), which fell to SAGU on Tuesday, 92-84.
“I’m very proud of our guys tonight, now it’s just a matter of remembering why we played so well tonight,” Garnett said. “We’ll work extremely hard for Northwood, who is a very talented team, so we’ll have to be extremely well prepared and focus. We’ll go back to work tomorrow and chop wood and carry water.”