03 Mar Bulldogs crush Panola to win East Zone title, No. 1 seed
By MIKE MONTFORT
— Sophomore Day, conference championship and tournament top seed all rolled into one big post-game celebration Saturday.
Navarro basketball (23-6/13-5) got 57 points from its sophomore core during a 78-52 romp past Panola for the Region XIV East Zone Championship and the top seed for next week’s post-season tournament at Shreveport, La.
Coach Michael Landers’ 24th-ranked Bulldogs, coming off a season-low 38 percent shooting Thursday and a shorter-than-routine game-preparation, could do no wrong Saturday. They emptied an ammunition-belt of 12 three-pointers, and, on the other end, limited an opponent to 60 points or less for the third time in the last four outings.
For only the fourth time this season and first since Game 8 on November 20, Xavier Davenport pumped in a game-high 20 points as the Bulldogs improved their record at Lewis Orr Court to 13-3. ‘X’ marked the spot, and deadly Davenport sank four three-pointers. He set early tones by nailing Navarro’s first three in each half.
Davenport, one of seven Bulldogs to score 25-plus in games this season, turned in his most productive scoresheet since he canned 33 in November 20 in a three-overtime win at Temple against the 24-6 Leopards, who qualified for the Region V Tournament.
James Jean-Marie fired with equal success from the opposite corner, dropping in four three-point bombs. He finished with 16 points.
Freshman Sherman Robinson came off the bench, contributed three three-pointers and finished with 11 points — his first double-figure scoring in 15 since December 8.
Tariq Simmons, who led Panola with 10 points, hit the game’s first bucket for Panola’s only lead of the night. The twice-tied game last was even at 12 when the Bulldogs began to turn momentum and took control. Leading 24-20 with 6:36 left in the first half, NC exploded on a 13-point run that featured three-bombs from Tyrese Patterson, Trey Pulliam and Jean-Marie.
Navarro extended its 42-26 halftime lead to as many as 32 points (78-46) after a Robinson three with just under two minutes to play.
Navarro’s win extended its record against the Ponies to 25-7 in 32 meetings here since the Wolens Special Events Center opened in 1986-87.
SCORE BY HALVES:
Panola 26 — 26 — 52
Navarro 42 — 36 — 78
PANOLA (52): Tariq Simmons 10, Lenell Henry 9, Kamari Brown 9, Tylan Dean 8, Josh Williams 7, Jeffrey Boyd 4, Franklyn Penn, Jr., 3, Nze Mba 2. TOTALS: 14-4-(12-16)-52.
NAVARRO (78): Xavier Davenport 20, James Jean-Marie 16, Sherman Robinson 11, Gavin Kensmil 8, Trey Pulliam 7, Shakem Johnson 6, Tyrese Patterson 5, Nicholas Rene 3, Ja’Quaye James 2; Lijon Smith 0, Jonah Carrasco 0. TOTALS: 17-12-(8-12)-78.