BY MIKE MONTFORT —
The Navarro Bulldogs are trying to punch their ticket to the upcoming Region XIV Men’s Basketball Tournament at Lufkin as one of the East Zone’s top two seeds — something that would enable them to claim a first-round bye.
To that end on Saturday at the Wolens Center, the Bulldogs got punched by the Paris Dragons.
The sledgehammer 85-68 loss was a staggering blow that knocked NC out of a second-place tie with the Panola Ponies behind TVCC, but it was not a deadly shot.
Life just became more of a challenge this week. The Bulldogs face Panola Wednesday at Carthage to try to sweep the season series for the advantage, and then host Kilgore on Saturday in their final regular-season game for “Sophomore Day.”
If higher tournament seeding is critical, Navarro still controls its destiny in those matters. It will require a winning week from coach Michael Landers’ Bulldogs.
New coach Bobby Taylor’s Dragons (13-14/5-12) inflicted a real stinger — Navarro’s most lopsided home loss of the season Saturday.
Houston freshman guard Devin Jackson nailed five three-pointers and concluded the first half with 17 points as Paris drove to a 42-33 halftime lead. Jackson finished with 24 points to lead all seven Dragons in scoring.
In the second half, 6-8 sophomore post Omar Sherman scored all 12 of his points and 6-3 Waterbury, Ct., freshman Tyshon Rogers contributed 11 of his 19 game total.
It just wasn’t Navarro’s day.
The Bulldogs hit 33.8% from the floor (24 of 71), including 21.7% from beyond the three-point circle.
Paris broke from a tie at 13 (12:37) and outscored the Bulldogs 14-4 to assume its first 10-point lead (27-17) with 6:53. Twice during the second half, Paris established 15-point leads (53-38 at 16:26 and 64-49 at 10:49).
Navarro fought back on each occasion and appeared to be changing game momentum each time, but could not advance closer than six points. It seemed the Bulldogs were making headway in their final push when they scored nine unanswered to crawl within 64-58.
The Dragons’ Markel Semien drew a personal and a technical foul with 8:02 left. Eric McCullom sank one of two free throws on the personal foul, and Keir Anderson hit both shots of the technical. In addition, NC had possession, but after missing a three-point try, Paris’ Antonio Chapman raced to left wing and countered with a three to make it, 67-58.
Sophomore Tyler Whitehead led Navarro with 21 points from 10-of-15 shooting. It was his second game of 20-plus for the season, and first since November 24 when he tallied 25 in the 90-89 OT conference win at Jacksonville.
Freshman D’Angelo Hunter added 13 points, five rebounds and two assists — his fifth double-digit game in his last seven.
Jamar Martin totaled 11 points with a team-high seven rebounds. McCullom contributed 10 points and five boards off the bench.
PARIS (85): Devin Jackson 24, Tyshon Rogers 19, Brandon Hollins 15, Omar Sherman 12, Antonio Chapman 7, Markel Semien 4, Sherron Wilson 4. TOTALS: 20-9-(18-29)-85.
NAVARRO (68): Tyler Whitehead 21, D’Angelo Hunter 13, Jamar Martin 11, Eric McCullom 10, Keir Anderson 9, Nate Nethel 4, Conrad Chambers 4. TOTALS: 18-5-(17-25)-68.
Elsewhere Saturday in Region XIV:
PANOLA 73, TYLER 64: First-year coach Grant McMillan’s Ponies won their 20th of the season. Only with four minutes left did the Ponies claim their first lead Saturday against Mike Marquis’ Apaches. TJC led 42-31 at halftime and 65-61 late, but couldn’t finish despite a 36-31 rebounding edge. Panola placed five in double-figure scoring, led by Charles Tucker’s 18, Chan Williams-Bey’s 14 and Devyn Wilson’s 12. TJC got 16 points from Jaqwan McCauley and a double-double from TJ Thomas (13/11, with 2 blocked shots).
TVCC 94, BOSSIER PARISH 76: With its win over BPCC, the Cardinals won their 32nd consecutive conference game, spanning two seasons. Top-ranked TVCC won 18 conference games in a single season for the first time in school history.
SAN JACINTO 92, LAMAR STATE 76: San Jacinto remained unbeaten at Anders Gym, claiming its 15th straight from a first-place South Zone showdown win over the Seahawks. San Jacinto led just once, 2-0, in the first half but regained the advantage on a bucket with 19:22 left in the game. The Ravens went on to extend their lead to as many as 12 points late in the second half as the Seahawks fought to stay alive at the free-throw line. The Hawks were perfect on 12 free throws in the first half, and finished the night 32-of-43 in the line. SJC got 18 from Ilker Er and 17 from Jorden Duffey. Jordon Harris led the Seahawks with 24 points, while Colton Weisbrod had another double-double performance with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Mambi Diawara scored 16 points for LSC-PA and Freddie Williams Jr. added 11, going 8-of-8 from the foul line.
BLINN 97, ANGELINA 84 Victor Dukes came off the bench with double-figure rebounding and 25 points and Blinn poured in 60 second-half points to defeat Angelina and snap a two-game conference losing streak. Morris Dunnigan pitched in 22 points while Corey Henderson and John Dewey each sank 16 for Blinn, which secured its second straight 20-win season under coach Scott Schumacher. AC claimed a 21-14 lead with 9:28 left in the half, but Bucs went on a 14-4 run over the next four minutes as Dukes contributed eight points. Dukes had 12 in the first half and had a buzzer-beating layup to give the Buccaneers a 37-35 halftime lead. Blinn hit 13-of-16 from the free-throw line inside the final 2:23 and successfully counteracted AC fouls to try to get back in the game.