By MIKE MONTFORT
LUFKIN – Navarro basketball’s free-fall finally ended with a resounding thud Tuesday as the seventh-seeded Lee Runnin’ Rebels eliminated the Bulldogs 99-75 in the first round of the Region XIV Men’s Basketball Tournament.
LSU commit Branden Jenkins scored a game-high 28 points and led three in 20-plus scoring as coach Roy Champagne’s Rebels (19-12) advance to a 6 pm Thursday quarterfinal matchup against second-seeded, South Zone champion Lamar State-Port Arthur (21-9) here at Shands Gymnasium.
Freshman Tony Farmer scored 22 points with 15 rebounds and 3 of Lee’s 10 blocked shots in the game as the Rebels survived and advanced after losing their final two regular season league contests.
Freshman Andre Edwards contributed 22 and LaDarrius Chester pitched in 16 as Lee led from tip to final whistle and never allowed the Bulldogs closer than 14 points during the second half.
Coach Michael Landers’ 10th-seeded Bulldogs concluded a 14-16 season by dropping their fifth straight game and sixth in their last seven, spiraling in three weeks from a position as a potential No. 3 seed. Four of those down-the-stretch losses, including one at Athens against No. 1 ranked TVCC, were by a combined total of 11 points.
With Tuesday’s loss, Navarro finished its first sub-.500 campaign since 2007-08, when Lewis Orr’s 16-17 Bulldog club reached the Region XIV Tournament Championship game at Kilgore, and represents the fewest wins by the team in a single season since 2005-06.
Navarro got a team-high 17 points from Keir Anderson, 16 from freshman D’Angelo Hunter and 14 from Jamar Martin, who fouled out with about 3:30 left in the game.
The long, athletic and talented Rebels avenged a stinging 71-67 regular-season loss to the Bulldogs at Corsicana on December 2, when Navarro scored 13 unanswered during a final 2:39 shocker.
Farmer had 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and 2 assists during the first half as the Rebels opened a 50-30 spread and led by as many as 23 points on two occasions.
From the outset, the Rebels drilled Navarro with three-pointers from Chester, Edwards and Jenkins and raced to a 10-2 advantage by the 16:44 mark.
Lee’s length on defense surfaced with six blocked shots during the first 10 minutes. Leading 16-9, Jenkins and Chester fueled a 12-point sprint by the 8:08 juncture. Jenkins hit a three over the Navarro zone and later made a nice crossover move for a layup from the left. Edwards fed Chester for a one-hand jam and then the 6-6 Memphis, Tn., freshman hit a three from the top of the circle to increase the lead to 28-9.
The South Zone was rising on Super Tuesday, sweeping all first-round wins:
(8) BLINN 63, (9) KILGORE 53
Freshman John Dewey’s 17 points led four double-figure scorers for Blinn as the Buccaneers (22-9) advance to a 1 pm Thursday quarterfinal against top-seeded, NJCAA top-ranked TVCC (29-1). Conference scoring leader Morris Dunnigan added 13 points as the Buccaneers broke Kilgore’s five-game winning streak and ended the Rangers’ 20-10 season. Kilgore, which shot only 33 percent from the floor (21-of-64), got 15 points from C.B. Diallo.
(5) ANGELINA 120, (12) PARIS 93
Freshman Corinthian Ramsey’s 41 points powered interim head coach Curtis Nash’s host Roadrunners (19-11) into a 3 pm Thursday quarterfinal against fourth-seeded San Jacinto-Central (21-9). Angelina and Paris combined for 28 three-pointers in the game, including 17-of-38 during the first half when the ‘Runners assumed a 59-54 lead.
(6) JACKSONVILLE 82, (11) TYLER 67
In a game highlighting 70 fouls, 94 free-throw attempts and 43 turnovers, coach Aaron Smith’s Jaguars emerged with a 15-point win over the Apaches, who lost four players via fouls. The NJCAA’s second-leading scoring team got 10 three-pointers and also sank 34-of-54 from the foul line. Ike Agusi led JBC with 17 points and Stephen Limuel added 14 points and eight rebounds. The Jaguars now have won five straight, 8 of 9 and 11 of 13 as they advance to an 8 pm Thursday quarterfinal against third-seeded Panola.