Kelvon Fuller soared high above the rim, floating toward the basket, waiting on Kahssian Kay’s pass to find him -- hanging in midair as the second part of an alley-oop dunk that rocked the Wolens Center and put an emphatic explanation point on one of the most impressive runs you’ll ever see.
Fuller’s slam (he was the oop to Kay’s alley) was the highlight of Navarro’s 23-0 run that lifted the Bulldogs to a 23-5 lead over Lamar-Port Arthur Wednesday.
It looked like a blowout.
It felt like a blowout.
It tasted like a blowout.
It was not a blowout.
Navarro, a young and growing team that's literally learning on the run, bolted out to a big lead early but had to hang on late to finally beat Lamar 69-65.
“That was not easy,’’ said Navarro coach Michael Landers as he took a deep breath (both physically and metaphorically) moments after watching his kids pull this one out. “This is a game we can learn from.”
No need for a pop quiz. This is the kind of game that’s impossible to forget from Navarro’s torrid start to the way the Dawgs held off Lamar in the final minute after the Seahawks closed to 62-61 with 1:20 left on Rodney Brown’s. free throw. But Brown missed the second half of a one-and-one that left the Bulldogs clinging to a one-point lead, and Landers’ kids knew just what to do to put Lamar away.
Fuller scored inside on a reverse in traffic to make it 64-61and the Dawgs forced a wild pass to get the ball back with 47 seconds left. Then the team that loves to run took over the game, standing still. That’s where they won it, at the free throw line, where the Bulldogs made 5 of 6 in the final 41 seconds. Trey Pulliam made three of those and finished with seven points and eight rebounds.
The 23-0 run was impressive, but Navarro’s 7-1 run in the final seconds was a thing of beauty as the Dawgs built a 69-62 lead with their best defense of the night before Lamar made a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“It’s a win we had to have,” said Landers, whose team is now 2-1 in the Region XIV race after bouncing back from a loss on the road to Coastal Bend on Saturday. They opened region play last week with a statement win over then No. 16 San Jacinto at the Wolens, where they ran out to a fast and furious lead.
If you haven’t seen Navarro play, these Dawgs are fun to watch. They’re young, hungry and coming together on the fly.
Jahlil Nails, a sophomore from Albany, N.Y., who at times looks like he can’t miss, led the Bulldogs with 23 points, including a crucial 3-pointer with 1:50 left that gave Navarro a 62-59 lead. He made 6 of 8 three's.
Fuller, a 6-8 freshman from Detroit, had a monster game, scoring 20 points, including 11 during the 23-0 run. He pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked six shots.
He seemed to be there to make THE play whenever Navarro needed it most. He came up with a critical blocked shot with the score knotted at 59-59 with 2:17 left to stop Lamar from taking the lead and of course his inside move that made it 64-61 was arguably to biggest basket of the night.
“I thought he was the difference in the first half,” Landers said of Fuller. “And he got that big block (with 2:17 left). We’re a third of the way in the season, but these are young kids still trying to find themselves. We feel he is getting better and better. He’s got a real high ceiling. He’s got a chance to be really good.”
So do the Bulldogs, who are 9-2 with a team that was totally overhauled (only one player returned) with 10 freshmen. They have their moments, but they also have a toughness about them. Lamar (0-3, 4-7) came back, but the Seahawks, who led only once (5-0), never regained the lead against a stubborn Navarro team that played its best defense early and late.
Landers gave Lamar credit for getting the train off the track to make it close down the stretch.
“They are a very well-coached team,” Landers said. “They play a difficult style, and they do a very good job of taking you out of your rhythm. When we went on that 23-0 run we were getting defensive stops and getting out in transition. After that it turned into a half court game.
“We were tentative. You can slow down, but you can’t stop. We stopped. That’s my fault," he said. "After that initial run we stopped and didn’t get back into transition. We have to learn when to pick our spots.”