Bulldogs stay unbeaten in zone with 75-69 win over TJC

By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Sun   —   

So this is how the other half lives.

You know, the guys who jump out to a lead early, build and build on that lead, coast for a while and then hang on at the end.

Those guys — the coasters — live on a different planet than Navarro’s Dawgs.

These are the comeback kids, the never quit, steal your heart and your heartbeat and break the heart of every team they play Dawgs.

You know, those Dawgs.

TJC3   If you haven’t followed Navarro’s dramatic, and at times inspiring, and always shocking season, then you have missed one of the best finishes in junior college basketball.

No, Navarro’s not finished yet. It’s just the way these guys finish games. They have given a whole new meaning to the term “Two minute warning” with one comeback after another. Make that, one heart-stopping comeback after another.

So what were they doing Wednesday night at the Wolens Special Events Center? There they were jumping out to a 9-0 lead before Tyler’s Apaches knew what hit them.

And then they just kept going and going and going, leading wire-to-wire in a 75-69 victory that keeps Navarro perfect at 8-0 in the Region XIV race, atop of the East Division tied with Trinity Valley.     You know, Trinity Valley’s Cardinals, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. You know, those Cardinals.

That all comes later (psst, psst, the Dawgs play TVCC at home on Jan. 23).

TJC7   Back to Wednesday’s game, this dyslexic turn-about-play with Navarro on top all night. After cruising, and coasting and gliding with some inspired play that saw just about everyone score and one player after another step up and have highlight moments, the Dawgs found themselves looking in the mirror the final five minutes of the game.

That’s when Tyler put on the comeback cape and flew at the Dawgs with everything it had. And after trailing by as much as 17 (D’Angelo Hunter hit a drive with 13:03 to lift Navarro to a 50-33 lead) the Apaches got hot. They made eight 3-pointers in the second half, and five of those came in the final 12 minutes, including a clutch 3 with 46 seconds left by Kwinton Hinson, who led Tyler with 16 points.

Hinson’s final 3 of the night cut the lead down to 72-66 and the Tyler bench was going crazy. The Apaches went nuts when Eden Ewing followed that within extra long bomb that cut the lead to 73-69 with 29 seconds left.

But it wasn’t enough because the Dawgs, who wrote the book on coming back, found a way to stop a comeback, it wasn’t pretty but it worked as Navarro, which shot the ball well from the floor all night, made just 5 of 10 free throws over the final 1:45 of the game to hang on to the win.

The Dawgs literally went 1-1 every time they reached the free throw line in the final 105 seconds of the game. Calvin Anderson made one with 22 seconds left, and then Tyler’s Aston Francis missed badly on a 3, and Navarro’s Eric McCullom came up with the rebound in traffic and was fouled hard and hit the floor.

TJC8    Hunter came off the bench to shoot for McCullom and made one of two with 8.4 seconds left to nail down the win.

“We’ll take ‘em any way we can get ‘em,” Navarro Coach Michael Landers said. “I thought we played great defense for 30 minutes, but in Region XIV North everybody has a good team. It’s never safe in the North. Everybody plays hard and everybody has talent. I knew Tyler was a lot better than its record (9-7 and 1-7 in the conference after the loss). Obviously, they are a lot better.

“They started making some shots and just kept on making them,’’ he said. “They made a lot of great shots in the last five minutes of the game.”

It was a share-for-all for the Dawgs, who saw 10 players score and five score nine points or more. Calvin Anderson, Saint Hilaire, and Hunter all scored nine points. Jamar Martin scored 10 and Keir Anderson, who hit three 3s in the first half to ignite the early lead, finished with 12.

Navarro made big shots all night from the floor, but couldn’t find the basket from the free throw line. The Dawgs went 9 of 18 in the first half and still went to halftime leading 34-21, and finished the game going just 20 of 37 from the line (54 percent).

“We missed so many free throws,’’ Landers said. “We played great defense but we left so many points on the floor and couldn’t pull away. We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.’’

Still, even on a night when Navarro needed a detective to find a free throw and even on a night when the roles were reversed, the Dawgs found a way to win.

That’s why they are 8-0 in the conference and why they have won 10 of their last 11 in a torrid run that spent a lot of emotion during the comebacks and left Landers and his team looking forward to the upcoming break. They get a bye and don’t play until next Wednesday at Bossier Parish.

“The bye comes at a good time,” Landers said. “We’re tired. We’ve been pushing them hard. We can use a break. We’ve got a long way to go.’’

Navarro 75, Tyler 69
TYLER (69) — Kwinton Hinson 16, Ronnie Stacy 10, Jaqwan McCauley 10, Darryl Stewart 9, Eden Ewing 9, TJ Thomas 8, Aston Francis 3, Arab Abdi 2, Brandon Simmons 2.  TOTALS: 15-8-(15-21)-69.
— Keir Anderson 12, Jamar Martin 10, D’Angelo Hunter 9, Saint Hilaire 9, Jalen Jackson 9, Calvin Anderson 9, Cameron King 6, Eric McCullom 6, Conrad Chambers 3, Tyler Whitehead 2.  TOTALS: 17-7-(20-37)-75.

HALFTIME SCORE: Navarro 34, Tyler 21
NC REBOUNDS: 26 (8/18).  Hunter 5, Hilaire 4, Whitehead 3, King 3, McCullom 3, Jackson 2, K Anderson 2, Martin 1, Chambers 1, Love 1, C Anderson 1.
NC ASSISTS: 16.  Chambers 5, K Anderson 4, Hilaire 3, C Anderson 2, Love 1, King 1.
NC STEALS:  6.  K Anderson 3, Hilaire 2, C Anderson 1.
NC BLOCKED SHOTS:  3.  King 1, C Anderson 1, Hunter 1.

GAME NOTES:  Bulldogs won their 7th straight and 10th in their last 11…Navarro is 9-2 at the Wolens SEC….Wednesday’s win was Navarro’s 7 in its last 8 games against TJC here in the series against the Apaches, and 13th in the last 15 meetings at the SEC since 2000-01….More than half of the 64 meetings between the teams since 1986-87 have been two-possession results (33)….Hunter, Jackson and King all came off the bench with vital, productive minutes that resulted in personal, individual-scoring highs here. Hunter led the team in rebounding (5).  Jackson hit all 4 of his shots from the floor.  King had 6 points, 3 boards and blocked a shot….Martin and Keir Anderson hit double-figure scoring for the 17th times this season.  Martin has scored in doubles for 16 straight games; Anderson, in 8….Bulldogs will not play in Region XIV conference action again until Wednesday, Jan. 20, at Bossier Parish CC, La.

Tyler-Navarro basketball photos by Keith Speer
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