Two sets of Tigers turning it up

East Texas Baptist basketball
East Texas Baptist athletics photos

By Brian Lester

Something fun is unfolding at East Texas Baptist.

The men’s basketball team has won 11 of its last 12, a stretch fueled by a nine-game win streak. The squad’s current streak stands at three.

And at 14-3, the Tigers are one shy of matching last season’s win total. They also have eight fewer losses than they did all of last season.

“We’re a different team and it’s been great to have this kind of success,” said senior forward Jordan Gosey, who is in his second season with the Tigers after transferring in from then-NCAA Division II Dallas Baptist. “We have a great atmosphere here and believe in one another.”

The storyline is similar for the women’s team, and in some ways even more impressive. East Texas Baptist won only three games a year ago. The Tigers are 15-2 this season and in the midst of a three-game winning streak after having won 12 of its first 13 games.

Kim Childress wasn’t around for the struggles of a year ago. She was playing at NCAA Division II Colorado-Mesa at the time. The transition for her has been a smooth one and she calls the school a great fit for her. It’s hard to argue with her. Childress, after all, is the leading scorer at 14.8 points per outing.

She loves the culture, the community the school is in, and there is no question she loves winning. But she doesn’t take much credit for sparking the turnaround.

“We all have Christ at the center of our lives and we wouldn’t be where we are without Him,” Childress said. “We give all the glory to Him.”

It’s not often you find a school where both basketball teams are playing at a high level and where both have realistic conference championship and NCAA tournament aspirations.

Rusty Rainbolt, who is in his first season coaching the Tigers and is back in the ASC for the first time since 2010-11 when he coached women’s basketball at Concordia, said the bond between the two teams is neat.

“We want people to see something different in our programs and it doesn’t feel like we have two different programs,” Rainbolt said. “They are cheering for us and we are cheering for them. We spend a lot of time together and have fun, and it’s nice that both teams are winning.”

Coming off a season where it lost 22 games, little was expected of the women’s team.

Rainbolt embraced the challenge of turning things around at the school. His players did as well.

“We have a great group of girls who work hard and are very selfless,” Rainbolt said. “They are utilizing the gifts God has given them. Every day is a new experience and the players have handled every situation that has come their way.”

Childress is the only player averaging in double figures and is grabbing a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game as well.

Seven other players are putting up between 5.6 and 8.6 points per outing and that kind of balance has been instrumental to the Tigers’ success.

It’s on defense, though, where the Tigers really make their mark. They are giving up only 57.9 points per game and forcing opponents to shoot 34 percent from the floor.

“Coach Rainbolt really emphasizes playing great defense,” Childress said. “And on offense, we’ve gotten to the point where we are executing better. The great thing is we don’t rely on just one player to score.”

The same recipe for success has worked for the men’s team. Second-year head coach Brandon Curran will tell you as much.

“This team has really incredible chemistry,” Curran said. “They love and support each other and always have a positive attitude. They all have selfless attitudes and their willingness to trust each other has allowed us to flourish.”

Pouring in 17.2 points per game, Robby Dooley is one of five averaging in double figures

Darrice Whitley (12.8), Westin Riddick (12.4), Nathan Fontenot (12.1) and Gosey (10.5) are in double figures as well.

Riddick and Fontenot do most of their damage from the outside, combining for 97 3-pointers, and Gosey is the leading rebounder, grabbing 7.2 per game. Whitley and Riddick have stepped up defensively, tallying 19 and 12 steals, respectively.

“Our success is a credit to how hard we practice,” Gosey said. “We push each other and play hard in games, and we also take a lot of pride in defense. It’s all played a part in our success.”

Both teams show no signs of falling off and both sit atop the East Division of the ASC. The men are 8-2 and the women are 9-1.

The ride has been an impressive one so far but much more is left to be accomplished.

“We just have to keep playing hard and always give our best effort,” Gosey said. “We have to stay focused, too. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Childress said the key is not feeling satisfied with what has already been done.

“We have to stay hungry,” Childress said. “We have to make sure we stay intact mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, and just get better every day.”

Regional notes

Birmingham-Southern capitalized on their opportunities from beyond the arc and rode it to a 91-80 win over Oglethorpe on Sunday. The Panthers made 17 3-pointers and won their fourth consecutive game while handing the Stormy Petrels their first SAA loss. Calvin Dak led the long-distance attack, drilling seven shots. He finished with 23 points. Harrison Deneka scored 23 as well, helping the Panthers improve to 8-10 overall and 5-2 in the SAA.

Micah Weaver had the game of her life in Trinity’s SCAC showdown with Austin on Saturday, tying a school record with 42 points in the Tigers’ 95-82 win. Weaver is the first Trinity player to score 42 in a game since 1995 and the third to score 40 or more in a game in program history. Knocking down 10 of her 11 attempts from the floor, she scored 26 in the first half. She finished the night shooting 15-of-20 from the floor and snagged 10 rebounds as well.

Texas-Tyler ended a nine-game losing streak against Texas-Dallas on Thursday, winning 73-59. It’s the first win for the Patriots at Dallas since January 2008. Emeka Obukwelu helped end the drought with his eighth double-double of the year. He scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Patriots extended their win streak to three games.

Behind 15 points and six rebounds from Victoria Pena, Texas-Dallas stretched its win streak to nine games Saturday, defeating University of the Ozarks 76-41 and moving within three wins of tying the program record for consecutive wins. Pena is leading the charge, averaging 16.1 points per outing, and her latest effort helped the Comets improve to 14-2 overall and to 8-1 in the ASC.

A long losing streak at Fleet Gymnasium came to an end Saturday as Washington and Lee edged Hampden-Sydney 70-68 in an ODAC showdown. The Generals had not won at Fleet since December 1997. Roy McMillan paced the Generals with 21 points and six rebounds. He also tallied three steals as the Generals won a road game for the third time and stretched their win streak to two games.

Jayla Harris lit up the scoreboard for 19 points and helped Virginia Wesleyan knock off Randolph 70-37 on Saturday in a game played in honor of Nancy Kelly, a former player who lost her life in a car accident two years ago. She was a strong advocate of organ donation and the team walked on the court with organ donor recipients during the announcing of the starting lineups. The Marlins improved to 7-10 overall and are 4-4 in the ODAC. The win was their third in a row.