By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
There’s no let up in the Navarro Runnin’ Bulldogs’ conference schedule so far this season.
And here comes another one-loss team to town.
This time it’s Angelina, which is the surprise of Region XIV with a 5-1 record against East Zone opponents. Navarro, 13-4 overall, has the same 5-1 conference record against all the South teams except for the Roadrunners.
It sets up another showdown at the K. and Ida Wolens Special Events Center — the teams play at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Bulldogs have played three teams without a loss in the conference at the time they played them — Jacksonville, Lee and Coastal Bend. Three more with a loss at the time — San Jacinto, Lamar State and now Angelina. Only Blinn, which is 0-6 in conference after losing to Navarro in the regional finals last year, had more than a loss when the Bulldogs played them.
“That’s when we want to play people,” Navarro coach Johnny Estelle said. “It just so happens they either have one loss or none. We hope we get their best shot.”
Navarro has risen to the challenge in this first season with a NJCAA national tournament automatic berth at stake for the Region XIV regular-season champion. Saturday’s winner will have the best record going into the final 12 games, all played against your own zone.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs handed Lamar State’s its second conference loss last Saturday with an 81-79 overtime win. Toney Foster drained a long two-point shot at the buzzer for the game-winner.
Navarro had several chances to put the game in regulation, but made only 20 of 38 free throws. It’s something the Runnin’ Bulldogs have worked on this week in practice.
“Free throw shooting kind of comes and goes,” Estelle said. “Last year we had a stretch where we didn’t shoot them particularly well and then made almost all of them in the tournament. It should get better as we cut our rotation and put guys in more high stress situations. They’ll respond.”
Angelina, picked fifth in the South in the preseason media poll, has shattered those false expectations. The Roadrunners have a five-game winning streak. They’ve played well in close games, going 3-0 in two-possession games.
It’s always interesting when Estelle and good buddy Todd Neighbors, Angelina’s coach, get together. They coached on the same staff together at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
“I saw them early in spring,” Estelle said. “I knew they had pieces. I knew (Todd) liked his team. They can really shoot it. They have good depth and size. They’re not winning the South for nothing.”
Angelina at Navarro
Jacksonville at Bossier Parish
Blinn at Panola
Lee at Paris
Coastal Bend at Trinity Valley
San Jacinto at Tyler
Region XIV Men’s Basketball Standings
Team Conference Overall
Navarro 5-1 13-4
Kilgore 5-2 15-2
Trinity Valley 4-2 13-4
Tyler 3-3 12-4
Paris 2-4 8-9
Bossier Parish 1-5 7-6
Panola 0-6 7-9
Team Conference Overall
Angelina 5-1 12-5
San Jacinto 4-2 12-2
Coastal Bend 4-2 10-3
Lamar State 4-3 11-4
Jacksonville 3-3 12-5
Lee 3-3 11-6
Blinn 0-6 8-9