By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Daily Sun
Toney Foster said he knew it was coming, said it was just a matter of time.
And when he hit the shot — the 3-pointer that looked like it would never come, and then came just in time — he said it was just a matter of being confident.
“I knew it was coming,’’ said Foster, whose 3 ignited the Bulldogs, who had to storm back in the final minutes to beat Panola 67-63 Wednesday at home, where their own gym was freezing cold.
Navarro led early by as much as 12 points, but watched the Ponies come back to take a dangerous lead late and were not only down 61-55 with 2:11 left in the game, but at that point they hadn’t made a shot from the floor in what seemed like an hour.
It was Foster, who finished with 10 points, who hit a drive with about nine minutes left to lift Navarro to a 50-48 lead, but the Bulldogs went ice cold and watched Panola build a lead on the free throw line, where the Ponies took 11 free throws in a seven-minute span to take the 61-55 lead with 2:11 left.
Navarro didn’t make another shot from the field until Foster came through with what he called “a big 3.’’
The Bulldogs caught a break when Chris Boleware was fouled from beyond the arc and he made all three to close to 61-58 with 2:10 left. Panola turned it over and Jamar Goodwin nailed two free throws for Navarro to close to 61-60 and then Panola missed an inside shot at the other end and the Bulldogs raced up the court.
That’s when Foster cashed in. Nothing but net, nothing but 3, nothing but a 63-61 Navarro lead with 1:16 left. Navarro never trailed again.
“I knew we needed a big shot,’’ Foster said.
Then he let it fly.
“When I shot it, I knew I had the confidence in myself and the confidence in the shot,’’ he said.
It changed the game, and then a call at the other end of the court set off a crazy ending.
Navarro was holding onto the 63-61 lead and Panola had one last chance with 23 seconds left in the game, but a wild play near the Panol bench turned the game over to Navarro for good.
The Ponies were trying to set up a play when an errant pass went out of bounds and when the officials ruled it was Navarro’s ball with 11.6 seconds left, Panola Coach Junsie Cotten went off, jumping up and down and screaming at the officials that they had blown the call, which came right in front of the Panola bench.
Cotten was furious with the call and wouldn’t stop. Finally he was hit with a technical foul, and when the teams returned to the court, Panola guard Geru Mabrey was given back-to-back technical fouls.
Boleware, who finished with 11 points, made four of six free throws to lift Navarro to a 67-61 lead with 11.6 left before Ricky Roberts hit a drive at the buzzer to make the final 67-63.
Navarro was led by Shannon Lilly, who hit his first two 3s and finished with 14 points. Boleware and Foster followed him and Goodwin and Troy Jones dropped in eight points apiece. Brandon Herman led Panola with 15 points and Roberts scored 14 for the Ponies, who are now 3-5 in the Region XIV race and 10-9 overall.
Navarro won its second in a row and is now 6-2 in the reign race and 13-6 for the season.
But the Bulldogs had to do it on a night when they couldn’t hit a shot. After shooting 57 percent on Monday and making 15-of-30 3-pointers, Navarro went 19-of-61 from the floor and made just 5-of-27 3-pointers, including two by Shannon that came in the opening moments of the game when Navarro made five of its first six shots.
“We couldn’t make a basket,’’ said Navarro Coach Michael Landers, who told his players before the game how important winning on Wednesday would be. “Panola did a great job of controlling the tempo and taking us out of our rhythm.’’
Then they came back.
“Toney hit that shot and it changed the tide for us,’’ Landers said. “He made one shot and it gave us enough life to pull it out.’’
NAVARRO 67, PANOLA 63
PANOLA: Ricky Roberts 14, Geru Mabrey 4, Brendt Pickens 12, Brandon Herman 15, Malik Fields 8, Josh Morris 10. TOTALS: 18-2-(21-34)-63.
NAVARRO: Cris Boleware 11, Shannon Lilly 14, DaShawn Robinson 2, Toney Foster 10, Jamar Goodwin 8, Khory Ross 2, Troy Jones 8, Jaleel Cousins 5, Mike Daniel 5, Neville Fincher 2. TOTALS: 14-5-(24-35)-67.
HALFTIME: Navarro 35, Panola 30.
RECORDS: Navarro 13-6/6-2; Panola 10-9/3-5.