By MIKE MONTFORT
It’s a certainty to appear soon on ESPN Instant Classic, perhaps a perfect fit in what would be a long-running series of “Texas Juco Legend” games.
What was billed as a Kilgore-Navarro basketball game was hardly a contest for the first 23 minutes Wednesday, but somehow it evolved into one pressure-packed, intense, competitive and entertaining contest during a compelling final 22 minutes when momentum swung its wildest.
That’s right, a 45-minute game.
It took overtime, but Kilgore (16-7/8-5) carefully and quietly tiptoed out of the Wolens Special Events Center with an 88-87 Region XIV East Zone victory over coach Michael Landers’ Bulldogs (17-6/9-4) and pulled within one game of second-place NC. Coach Brian Hoberecht’s Rangers won their fourth straight game and handed Navarro only its second homecourt loss of the season.
Kilgore was fortunate to claim only their third road win of the year – in spite of scoring the game’s first seven points, thundering to a 46-25 halftime lead, and cruising to a seemingly insurmountable 26-point lead (53-27) with 17:37 left. The Bulldogs awakened with pressure defense, some transition buckets off turnovers and several offensive putbacks and were able to crawl all the way back. The gritty, uphill climb featured a 16-3 run during the final 5:00 of regulation to force overtime at 77. They gave themselves some good last-minute looks at victory, but couldn’t cover up their biggest shortcoming Wednesday — free-throw shooting, or lack thereof.
After a one-point OT loss, ‘season-worst’ is the soft descriptor for Navarro’s haunting 7-of-22 night from the foul line (31.8%). The Bulldogs missed 12 free-throws during the first half (4-of-16). They missed front ends of two one-and-one situations. Trailing 76-73 inside the final minute of regulation, they missed both ends of a shooting foul. And, to underscore night-long misery, they were assessed an administrative technical foul for pre-game dunking that allowed KC’s Bakari Copeland the opportunity to hit two free throws.
Copeland scored Kilgore’s first seven unanswered points, and the ‘Dogs didn’t curtail or counter the fast start. In the overtime, Copeland again came through with six points and finished with a 16 as the Rangers’ second-leading scorer.
Sophomore guard Jonathan Milligan’s 29 points led five Rangers in double-figure scoring. Behind Copeland were Jaleel Wheeler (13), Shaq Keith (11) and Alassane Kah (10).
Navarro placed four in double-figure scoring, led by Wayne Martin’s ninth double-double of the season – 26 points and 12 rebounds. Martin scored 19 second-half points with 5 in the extra period. The Brooklyn, NY., sophomore had a team-high seven offensive boards and also blocked two shots. He took a Cris Boleware feed strong inside off the glass for the tying points with :05.1 left in regulation.
Boleware pitched in 20 points, four rebounds, 5 assists, and three steals for the Bulldogs. The Arlington, Tx., sophomore hit 15 second-half points.
Trey Young added 17 points from 7-of-13 shooting from the floor, plus four rebounds, four assists and two steals before fouling out in overtime.
Navarro has an open date in its Region XIV schedule Saturday, but returns to the SEC for a 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 11 battle against coach Mike Marquis’ Tyler Apaches.
KILGORE 88, NAVARRO 87 (OT)
SCORE BY HALVES:
Kilgore (16-7/8-5) 46 31 (11) — 88
Navarro (17-6/9-4) 25 52 (10) – 87
KILGORE: Jonathan Milligan 29, Bakari Copeland 16, Jaleel Wheeler 13, Shaq Keith 11, Alassane Kah 10, Quantez Brown 5, Myron Chapman 2, Michael Thomas 2. TOTALS: 28-4-(20-28)-88.
NAVARRO: Wayne Martin 26, Cris Boleware 20, Trey Young 17, DaShawn Robinson 11, Sharif Owoyemi 4, Anthony Sanders 3, Maika Ostling 3, Neville Fincher 2, Jamar Martin 1. TOTALS: 28-8-(7-22)-87.
FOUL OUT: NC – Young.
TECHNICAL FOUL: NC – W. Martin
REGION XIV MEN’S BASKETBALL STANDINGS
Through Games of Wednesday, February 4
Team All Conf
TVCC 21-3 11-2
Navarro 17-6 9-4
Kilgore 16-7 8-5
Tyler 17-6 7-6
Paris 11-11 3-10
Panola 6-17 1-12
BPCC 4-18 1-12
Team All Conf
San Jacinto 19-4 11-2
Lamar-Port Arthur 18-6 9-4
Blinn 17-6 8-5
Angelina 16-7 8-5
Lee 13-11 6-7
Coastal Bend 9-11 5-8
Jacksonville 14-9 4-9
RESULTS TUESDAY, FEB. 3
Tyler 103, Creative Young Minds 61
Jacksonville 132, Longview Elite 80
RESULTS WEDNESDAY, FEB. 4
Kilgore 88, Navarro 87 (OT)
TVCC 86, Paris 67
Panola 85, BPCC 81 (OT)
San Jacinto 93, Lee 71
Lamar-PA 102, Angelina 86
Blinn 85, Coastal Bend 65
GAME FRIDAY, FEB. 6
Victoria at San Jacinto, 7 pm (Non-Conference)
GAMES SATURDAY, FEB. 7
Lamar-PA at Coastal Bend, 2 pm
Blinn at Jacksonville, 4 pm
BPCC at Tyler, 4 pm
Paris at Panola, 4 pm
TVCC at Kilgore, 6 pm
Angelina at Lee, 6 pm
Navarro – Open Date