Southwestern Assemblies of God won't have any anxieties this week when the NAIA selects its field for its 32-team National Tournament.
The Lions punched their ticket to Kansas City with a 90-81 victory over Wayland Baptist in the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament championship Saturday at Bill George Arena on the campus of John Brown University.
Sooner Athletic Conference All-Tournament Team
MVP - Joshua Swearingen, Southwestern Assemblies of God
Hustle Award — Ruben Lopez, Wayland Baptist
Cameron Hill, Southwestern Assemblies of God
Joshua Kashila, Southwestern Assemblies of God
Tyrone Davis, Wayland Baptist
Samuel Kalwanyi, Wayland Baptist
Ryan Harris, Texas Wesleyan
Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament
Oklahoma City 66, Mid-America Christian 63
Southwestern Assemblies of God 96, Southwestern Christian 79
Texas Wesleyan 90, John Brown 79
Wayland Baptist 86, USAO 73
At Bill George Arena, Siloam Springs
Southwestern Assemblies of God 89, Texas Wesleyan 79
Wayland Baptist 78, Oklahoma City 75
At Bill George Arena, Siloam Springs
Southwestern Assemblies of God 90, Wayland Baptist 81
The No. 24-ranked Lions (24-9) were most likely already a lock for the national tournament heading into last week's SAC Tournament, but first-year coach Delton Deal was happy to remove all doubt. It's the first SAC Tournament title for SAGU since joining the league in 2013.
"It's always nice not to have to worry about selection day and have to wait and see if your name shows up," Deal said. "We played our way in. It feels better, we like it better, and obviously winning is good."
The Lions trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half but cut the deficit to 48-43 at halftime. SAGU took a one-point lead with 10 minutes, 20 seconds left on a Dareny Sims free throw and the two teams struggled with one another until the 5:16 mark in the second half.
That's when tournament MVP Joshua Swearingin was fouled on a three-point attempt with the game tied 71-71.
Swearingin cooly knocked down all three free throws to give the Lions a 74-71 lead, and they would remain in front the rest of the way, outscoring the Pioneers (23-9) 19-9 down the stretch.
SAGU hit 12 of 14 free throws to close out the game and got some timely baskets as well.
All-Tournament team selection Cameron Hill, who led with 24 points, hit a 3-pointer to give SAGU a 81-77 lead. He then hit two free throws with 2:02 remaining as the Lions extended their margin to six points. Joshua Kashila also had a basket in that stretch and hit four free throws.
"I think that kind of separated us to the point where (Wayland Baptist) got a little tight, and we were able to get one more stop and win the game," Deal said. "And the crazy thing is my two guys making free throws at the end (Hill and Kashila) were freshmen, and it's just awesome seeing them grow and mature throughout the year after they had a couple of rough ones earlier in the year."
Swearingin finished with 22 points for the Lions, while Kashila had 21.
"SAGU made some great plays, great shots," said Wayland Baptist coach Ty Harrelson. "Coach Deal does a great job with them so, credit to them."
Overall the Lions hit 26 of 30 free throws, which proved to be the difference.
"It's just too bad the championship game comes down to free throws," said Wayland Baptist coach Ty Harrelson. "Let's make a play. That's kind of the way I would hope it would go."
Samuel Kalwanyi led Wayland Baptist, the No. 3 seed, with 27 points, while Trevonta Robertson had 14 and Tyrone Davis 13.
Harrelson is optimistic that the Pioneers are also a lock for the national tournament, spending most of the year in the Top 25 and still receiving votes heading into the SAC Tournament.
"You would think so," Harrelson said. "We finished third in the conference. We were one win away from tying the regular season championship. We've been in top 25 most of season. I think we've played our way in. It's a great season I'm really proud of my kids. There was a time there when we were middle of the pack in the conference.
"We were struggling in early January, but we got it together and the kids have a lot of heart and high character. ... It's a great conference and we were happy to be in the championship game.
SW Assemblies of God 90, Wayland Baptist 81
SW Assemblies of God^43^47^--^90
SW Assemblies of God (24-9): Hill 24, Swearingin 22, Kashila 21, Sims 8, Tipton 8, Petillo 4, Medder 3.
Wayland Baptist (23-9): Kalwanyi 27, Robertson 14, Davis 13, Lopez 9, Culver 6, Throns 6, Shields 6.
Sports on 03/07/2018
Print Headline: Lions roar in men's title game