While our men’s basketball team may not have lifted the championship trophy this season, Coach Bostwick knows the most meaningful championships are often won off the court. Read on for his summary of an eventful basketball season. (This article was originally published here.)
First and foremost: all thanks and glory to God, who was as evident this season as ever before! My boys played for an audience of One, and I can hear our Father saying, “Well Done” right now!
We won our last eight games to give ourselves the opportunity to advance to the post-season. God added Chaplain Tony Siebels to our team at the beginning of that run. He was a game-changer and prayer warrior who encouraged, inspired, and became a rock for us. It was a major blessing for everyone involved. He and his wife had separated, but through the events of the last month of the season, Tony and his wife are reuniting. I would consider saving a marriage a championship event!
We found ourselves back in the valley going into the conference tournament. But God displayed His awe and wonder, as we came out of a 10-day quarantine to hit back-to-back game-winning three-pointers to advance to the KCAC conference championship. Those game-winners included a comeback from down seven with under three minutes to play against Kansas Wesleyan, along with punching our final ticket to the NAIA Tournament when Kaleb Stokes, for the second straight game, hit a miracle three-point shot, going the length of the court in 3.7 seconds. The ball left his hand with only a tenth of a second on the clock as we beat Ottawa. God’s fingerprints were all over that victory. Without that shot, our season would have ended that day.
The Regional Championship trophy and cutting the nets down once again in Hartman Arena was a beautiful experience. We prayed at center court, thanking Jesus for sending the Holy Spirit to empower us.
We played a great game against Bethel College in the KCAC championship. Brooks hit what seemed to be another game-winning three with less than five seconds left, but we lost on a very tough foul call. What seemed to be a dagger only strengthened and prepared us for the NAIA Tournament and the upcoming regionals. Bouncing back from a difficult-to-swallow loss showed my guys resolve and love for each other. It put all of our focus on God, and we relied on Him to help us punch our final ticket by returning to Wichita to win the first-round regional and reach the Sweet 16 in Kanas City. Trusting Him to help us cut down the net in Hartman Arena in Wichita proved to be a high point for our season.
Hartman Arena in the NAIA National Tournament opening round became a touchpoint of heaven, as God’s presence in that house was impossible to deny. I have never seen one of my teams play with such anointing. We simply could not miss. Our confidence was in Christ, and He became our defense as we beat two excellent teams. According to the NAIA Hoops Report, we were longshot underdogs in both games against both Park and USAO. They must have underestimated the power that my players had tapped into, as we led both games by over 30 points. The Regional Championship trophy and cutting the nets down once again in Hartman Arena was a beautiful experience. We prayed at center court, thanking Jesus for sending the Holy Spirit to empower us. We received a nice trophy validating that particular championship.
It was such a special feeling to return to Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, the place of my first NAIA Championship in 2005 as an assistant coach. This year, with the NAIA returning to one division for the first time since 1992, reaching Kansas City and the NAIA Sweet 16 was twice as challenging, with over 200 teams in the fight. If you add Covid to that mountain, it was as difficult as ever to make this climb. The challenge for our team became conquerable only through faith and trust in Christ Jesus. We had a very young team. Most nights, we were outsized. But finding His plan and His Way became our mission every game.
Despite the Covid restrictions, we had really special times as a group just hanging out, practicing, and eating together. On Wednesday, we were blessed with so much famous Jack Stack’s barbecue by our sponsor that we couldn’t eat half of it. So, on a bitter cold Kansas City night, Chaplain Tony and I felt led to take the extra food we had been blessed with and go bless others. We took off to downtown KC. We had seen some homeless at practice earlier in the day. After sharing the food, we prayed with some gentlemen we met named David, Mark, and Red. We still had some food, and something inside me told me to find a grocery store. At the first grocery store we found, we encountered a small Latino lady who was so excited to take the food home to her children. We got to pray with her, and it became a special championship evening for us.
The night was young, though. Late Wednesday night, our group won another major championship. A little after midnight, my assistant coach, Geno, called with fantastic news about his wife Allee’s water breaking. Their baby boy decided to come five weeks early, and this miracle baby is a result of countless prayers! Geno drove home through the night through sleet and snow, reaching Bartlesville at 5:00 a.m. At 7:03 a.m., our biggest championship and miracle took place as Oaks Gray Hartman came into the world! Geno and Allee had endured struggles having children, but Oaks Gray overcame it all.
Thursday morning, I was blessed to lead an FCA Coaches Zoom. Three coaches were able to be on the zoom, including my close friend Delton Deal, who followed me at SAGU, and Delano Thomas at Shawnee State. We all shared our testimonies and journeys of how God has guided us to KC this season. It was a special time. Both Coach Deal and I were truly blessed to hear Coach Delano’s story. He did not realize what FCA stood for, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but saw the Zoom invite and felt the need to join. He shared his powerful testimony. Hearing it was another championship. I would love to see one of these coaches raise a banner this season. They both won their first-round games and are now in the Elite 8.
“It was as difficult as ever to make this climb. The challenge for our team became conquerable only through faith and trust in Christ Jesus.”
And it’s true—we came up short on the scoreboard Friday night. But watching one of my former players, Austin Johnson, who coaches at LCS, receive Coach of the Year before our game was yet another championship. I hope to see them advance. After I became a head college basketball coach, Austin was my first senior to graduate. Watching one of my players advance past me in success as a coach is a big step in my personal journey. Sharing all I knew with him and watching him take it further is such a joy. It’s a true championship.
So there you have it. Those of you who think we lost and did not win a championship this season need to take the blinders off. Jesus is always working behind and through everything!
With Christ Jesus, you can win a championship every day of the year.