By MIKE MONTFORT (Photos By Keith Speer)
The hills and valleys of the Navarro-Lee basketball roller-coaster ride Wednesday appeared to be ending in the deepest of valleys for the Bulldogs.
Athletic Lee’s long, pressure defense forced Navarro into 13 second-half turnovers and the Rebels had cashed most every one of them into easy baskets — so many times, in fact, that Lee had turned a 10-point deficit into what appeared to be an insurmountable nine-point lead (67-58).
The clock read 2:38.
That’s when the Bulldogs focused on a final opportunity to protect home court and pulled off a stirring, most improbable conference victory. Strike that. ‘Stirring’ and ‘Improbable’ don’t describe it justly. Substitute more intense words like ‘pulsating’ and ‘shocking’.
Keir and Calvin Anderson (not related, except as teammates) did their best imitation of a randomly firing ammunition belt by combining for three three-point shots on three consecutive trips downcourt within a 0:53 span to hoist the Bulldogs from the depths of the valley into a 67-67 tie.
Conrad Chambers, whose 8 points came from a perfect night at the foul line, hit his final four free shots inside the final :45 to ice the Bulldogs’ 71-67 win over the Region XIV South Zone leaders.
Total it: Navarro scored the game’s final 13 unanswered.
Lee was totaled.
Trailing 69-67, Lee had several opportunities to tie or win, but couldn’t convert. Team-leading scorer Tony Farmer attacked and had two good looks in traffic inside the final :15 after the Rebels had a frontcourt baseline inbound. But after the 6-foot-8 freshman’s second miss, the 6-foot Chambers scissored underneath for position and grabbed the critical rebound.
Farmer had no other choice than to commit his disqualifying foul, and sent Chambers back to the free-throw line at the other end of the floor with :05.3 remaining, when he put the game out of reach.
Coach Michael Landers’ Bulldogs improved their overall record to 6-6. In the process of winning their third straight game over a Region XIV South Zone opponent, they also broke the Rebels’ seven-game winning streak.
Navarro had only three first-half leads, but emerged during the final 4:17 to create as much as an eight-point lead (35-27). NC then popped Lee with a seven-point run to start the second half and extended a 35-32 lead, thanks to Tyler Whitehead’s layup, Jamar Martin’s short jumper and a Keir Anderson 3.
Down 42-32, Lee’s pressure forced a myriad of ballhandling and passing mistakes. The Rebels converted those turnovers into fast buckets during a 17-6 run in a seven-minute stretch.
Navarro got a game-high 16 points from Keir Anderson on 5-of-10 shooting that included 4-of-8 from the arc.
Jamar Martin added 11 points, eight defensive rebounds and two blocked shots.
Whitehead also pitched in 11 from 3-of-6 shooting, cleared three rebounds, an assist, a steal and a blocked shot.
Eric McCullom battled hard underneath and recorded his fourth double-figure scoring game of the season. He had 10 points, 6 rebounds and also blocked a team-high 3 shots. McCullom has blocked 12 shots in his last three games, including a season-high seven against Southwestern Christian at Terrell.
The Bulldogs hit 43 percent from the floor (23-of-53), including 35% from three-point range (7-of-20). NC added 18-of-25 from the foul line.
Lee got 17 from Farmer, 15 from LSU-commit Branden Jenkins and 13 from Memphis freshman LaDarrius Chester.
Navarro travels Saturday to Beeville for a 4 pm Region XIV game at Coastal Bend College before it returns to the Wolens SEC Wednesday, Dec. 9 for a semester-ending league matchup against the Lamar State College-Port Arthur Seahawks.
Lee : Tony Farmer 17, Branden Jenkins 15, LaDarrius Chester 13, Andre Edwards 9, Tim Coleman 9, Duop Reath 4.
Navarro: Keir Anderson 16, Jamar Martin 11, Tyler Whitehead 11, Eric McCullom 10, Calvin Anderson 8, Conrad Chambers 8, D’Angelo Hunter 2, Cameron King 2, Neek Mukoro 2.
Halftime — Navarro 35, Lee 32.
- For Region XIV Conference scores Wednesday and updated standings, see another story on this webpage.