Francis’ Eighth Season Concludes in SAC Quarterfinals


Laura Barrios Bardi

Senior guard, Langston Gaither shoots over his defender in a game earlier this season.

Preston Palm, Contributing Writer

USAO’s men’s basketball season came to a close on February 23rd in a close loss against Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU). While the season ended in disappointment, there were a lot of takeaways, positives, and big moments to this season.

The Drovers ended the season with an overall record of 17-12, winning roughly 59% of their games this season. Conference play was competitive, but USAO managed to win 63% of their conference games with a record of 14-8. The Drovers showed flashes of potential but ultimately USAO could not pull together a win to keep their season alive.

The first month of season, October, only featured two games in which USAO went 1-1. There were five games in November where the Drovers went 3-2 and won their last two games of the month, both by one possession, against John Brown University (JBU) and Oklahoma City University (OCU). December couldn’t have gone better for USAO as they went undefeated for the month and increased their win streak to eight games.

The new year started off on the wrong foot for the Drovers, with a 95-86 loss to Langston University (LU). The month started to look better with two dominating wins over Central Christian College (CCC) and Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU). However, in the back half of the month, the Drovers dropped six games in a row with four of the games ending in double digit losses. USAO performed well in the month of February going 5-2. Yet, one of those two losses was the most important game of the year as the Drovers fell to SAGU in the SAC tournament quarterfinal, with a score of 100-92.

As a team, the Drovers were an offensive machine. USAO recorded five games in which they won with a final score of 100+ points. The first was against Calvary Bible College October 28th where the Drovers won 117-62. Next, for Homecoming, the Drovers secured a 103-82 win over Dallas Christian College on November 5th. The team’s third triple-digit game was December 10th against Southwestern Christian University (SCU) with a final score of 102-84. The final two games were both against OPSU, the first was January 12th with a score of 106-88 and the second was February 18th with a score of 107-81.

As far as individual stand outs go, three Drovers shined brightest this season, earning themselves All-Conference honors for the year. Starting with a new face on the team, Langston Gaither who earned All-SAC honorable mention. Gaither earned this honor by putting up 14.5 points per game, seven rebounds, and over three assists per game. Overall, Gaither shot 45.3% from the field goal range, 32.1% from behind the arc, and 73.5% from the charity stripe. Gaither made history on January 7th by recording a triple double, the first Drover to do so in over 10 years.

Next is USAO’s leading scorer this year and All-SAC 1st team honoree, Samkelo Cele. Cele averaged 20.5 points per game this season, which was third highest scoring average in the SAC. Cele stayed efficient all season by shooting 52.8% from the field and a remarkable 41.3% clip from three-point range. Cele managed to record 14 games with twenty-points to his name.

Another powerful Drover and All-SAC third team member, Gerard Makuntae finished a very accomplished college career this season. Makuntae averaged 15.2 points per game with 8.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Over the course of the season, he also recorded 37 blocks, 36 steals, and 63 assists. Makuntae made history this season as he is the only Drover in history to have over 1000 points, 800 rebounds, and 200 assists in his career. He is only the 17th player to reach the 1000-point milestone in USAO’s program history and is USAO’s all-time leading rebounder.

Other key Drovers included Jaden Harrell, Cade Allen, Logan Dolan, Cejay Mann, and Dallen Forsythe. In his second year, Harrell averaged 5.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. Across the season he recorded 96 assists, 89 rebounds, and 37 steals. Allen put up 9.1 points per game with a field goal percentage of 41% and a 35.9% from behind the arc. Dolan recorded 6.1 points per game and shot 80% from the charity stripe. Mann recorded 9.3 points per game by shooting 43.2% from the field goal range and 33.3% from the three-point line. Finally, Forsythe shot 76.9% from behind the arc and recorded 3.1 points per game.

With their season at an end, the Drovers will prepare for the 2023-24 season and will be back in action in the fall trimester.


Preston Palm is a second-year Communication major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.