By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Sun
Don’t look now but Navarro’s Bulldogs are 5-0 in the Region XIV conference race.
That’s right, 5-0.
Not many would have given the Dawgs a chance to get off to that kind of start before the season began when 13 new faces took the court for Navarro.
But here they are, heading to the Christmas break with a perfect start in the conference, thanks to some big-time play down the stretch Wednesday night at the Wolens Special Events Center, where Navarro came back in the last minutes to knock off Lamar State-Port Arthur 69-66.
“In this league you’ve got to win every time you get a chance,” said Navarro Coach Michael Landers, whose team doesn’t play again until Jan. 3 and doesn’t face a conference opponent until Jan. 6 against Angelina.
The Dawgs finished strong in the standings and on the court, outscoring Lamar 14-6 in the final 5:47 of the game, holding the Seahawks to just two baskets from the floor and a pair of free throws.
“Obviously, not all of them have been easy,” Landers said of his team’s 5-0 start. “Our guys have been battling. They are finding ways to win early (in the conference), and that’s big for the big picture. You don’t want be down three or four games before you really get started.”
They’ve started with a rush, but more importantly, the Dawgs know how to finish. They won their last conference game against Lee, outscoring the Rebels 13-0 over the final 2:39 of that game to erase a nine-point deficit seven days ago — and they finished strong again Wednesday.
Lamar (2-3 in the conference race) took the lead in a see-saw game and led 40-36 at halftime, thanks to a 3 at the buzzer. The Seahawks built the lead to six points midway in the second half and led 60-55 with 5:47 left in the game
But Navarro turned up its defense and shut the door on the Seahawks, who turned the ball over 10 times in the second half and went more than four minutes without scoring a point from the floor.
The Bulldogs just kept coming, and the 14-6 run was ignited by two clutch drives. Jamar Martin, who scored 15 for the night, hit a quick-hit reverse drive in traffic with 5:34 left to close the gap to 60-57 and Keir Anderson, who led the Dawgs with 16 points, came flying on a fast break to make it a one-point game at 60-59. After a Lamar free throw brought the lead back to 61-59, Saint Hilaire dropped in two free throws to knot things at 61 and Tyler Whitehead gave Navarro the lead with a tough drive inside with 2:22 left. It was Navarro’s first lead since late in the first half when Martin hit a 3 to lift the Dawgs to a 26-19 advantage.
Lamar came back after Whitehead’s drive and took a 65-64 lead on a drive with just under a minute left in the game, but Anderson came up with the biggest shot of the night, busting a 3 with 0:42 left to lift Navarro to a 67-65 lead, and it was Anderson who put the finishing touch to the victory with two free throws with 6.4 seconds left to make it a 69-66 final.
Anderson and Martin led the way from the start as they set the tone in a first half when it was raining 3s. The Dawgs made 8 of 14 3-pointers in the first half, shooting 57 percent from deep, and 24 of their first 31 points came on shots beyond the arc. Anderson hit two 3s and Martin went 3-for-3 as they combined for five 3s early.
The Dawgs made only two 3s in the second half, but they made the one that counted — Anderson’s beauty with 42 seconds left that nailed it.
That was clutch, but so was the defense that really flipped the game around for Navarro.
“We finally got some stops at the end,” Landers said of his defense stepping up down the stretch. I thought we were passive most of the game, but we finally put some pressure on them.
Landers knows it’s still a work in progress, but he loves the progress.
“We have played only three games with our entire roster,” he said. “We’re growing game by game and we are getting a little tougher every game. To win Region XIV you have to be tough. Little by little we’re growing and continue to grow.”
FREE THROWS: The Bulldogs won their third straight, sixth of their last seven, and eighth of their last 10 games….Navarro played its fourth game decided by two possessions or fewer in its last five outings. The Bulldogs are 3-1 in those close games….Martin hit double-figure scoring for the 13th time this season, and Keir Anderson for the 12th Wednesday….Chambers didn’t start, but led the Bulldogs in assists for the 5th straight game. He’s totaled 32 assists in his last five outings, with a season-high 9 against Southwestern Christian College….Chambers also leads Region XIV to date in free-throw shooting. He’s hitting 92.7 percent from the foul line (38-of-41). After 2-of-2 last night, he’s hit 33 of his last 34….Navarro will not play again until a 2 pm Sunday, January 3 non-conference matchup with Lone Star-Cy Fair at the Wolens SEC. Conference play resumes here Wednesday, January 6, against the Angelina Roadrunners.
Navarro 69, LSC-PA 66
LSC-PA (66): Colton Weisbrod 24, Jordon Harris 10, Freddie Williams 10, Mambi Diawara 9, Christian Albright 8, Tyler Chase 3, Marko Zelic 2. TOTALS: (24-57)-(7-17)-(11-21)-66.
NAVARRO (69): Keir Anderson 16, Jamar Martin 15, Calvin Anderson 11, Eric McCullom 8, Conrad Chambers 6, Saint Hilaire 5, Tyler Whitehead 4, My’Quan Gooding 3, D’Angelo Hunter 1. TOTALS: (14-36)-(10-22)-(11-14)-69.
HALFTIME: LSC-PA 40, Navarro 36
FOUL OUT: LSC-PA – Zelic, Albright.
TECHNICAL FOULS: LSC-PA: Albright. Navarro: McCullom.
REBOUNDS: LSC-PA 35 (Weisbrod, 14). Navarro 28 (Martin, 8).
ASSISTS: LSC-PA 14 (Harris, 8). Navarro 11 (Chambers 4).
STEALS: LSC-PA 4 (Harris, 2). Navarro 7 (Martin, C Anderson 2)
BLOCKED SHOTS: LSC-PA 3 (Albright, 2). Navarro 7 (Martin, Hunter 2)
TURNOVERS: LSC-PA 16, Navarro 11.
- For more information, see Region XIV Scores and Standings Update.