Don’t expect Navarro to change its style of play after two games last week that turned into free-throw shooting contests.
Which is good. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have built an 18-5 record this season, held the Region XIV lead since December and made it to three national tournaments in four years because of the best man-to-man defense in the conference.
A style of play that didn’t resonate with the game officials either at the Wolens Center or on the road at Wagstaff Gymnasium. Hopefully — if nothing else for the fans’ sake — it will Wednesday night when rival Trinity Valley (15-8, 6-6) comes to Corsicana to take on Navarro, 10-2 in the conference with a game lead on Tyler.
Kilgore and Tyler combined to shoot 92 free throws against Navarro in the two games last week, an astounding amount that even had a Big 12 assistant coach that stopped by Navarro on Tuesday stunned.
Looking back, Navarro was fortunate to split the games, beating Kilgore 69-59 and losing to Tyler 75-73.
It speaks to how strong of a team the Runnin’ Bulldogs have that they led Kilgore by 19 points and basically had the game put away with five minutes left. Despite Kilgore missing 19 free throws.
Then came Saturday in Tyler, where one player, Anthony Odunsi, was awarded 19 free throw attempts. Yep, it was like the “Jordan Rules” broke out.
Look, this isn’t a complete whine fest. Navarro shot 65 free throws last week, which is a lot. But it was hard to swallow knowing that Kilgore shot 16 more free throws than Navarro did at home. And then Tyler took 11 more free throws than Navarro, which is expected on the road.
And it was hard to watch players parade to the free throw line last Wednesday again Kilgore. It made the game unwatchable. And not fan-friendly.
I’ve said my peace, and don’t speak for Estelle or any other coach or player at Navarro. And I completely agree that fouls — especially early in the game — are necessary for officials to keep control of the game.
I get it. You get it.
Estelle just wants Navarro’s intense style of defense to be appreciate.
“We’re negating the hustle part of it,” Navarro coach Johnny Estelle said. “Our kids are playing hard and competing, but some times that can be used against you.”
Wednesday night’s game against Trinity Valley will be another intense rivalry game in the East Zone.
Maybe we’ll see 90-something free throws again. As a basketball fan, I hope not.
Region XIV Basketball Standings
Team Conference Overall
Navarro 10-2 18-5
Tyler 9-3 18-4
Kilgore 8-4 18-4
Trinity Valley 6-6 15-8
Paris 6-7 12-12
Bossier Parish 1-11 7-12
Panola 0-12 7-15
Team Conference Overall
San Jacinto 8-4 17-4
Jacksonville 7-5 16-7
Lee 7-5 15-8
Lamar State 7-5 14-6
Coastal Bend 7-6 13-7
Angelina 7-5 14-9
Blinn 3-11 11-14
San Jacinto at Jacksonville, 7 p.m.
Trinity Valley at Navarro, 7 p.m.
Coastal Bend at Lee, 7 p.m.
Panola at Bossier Parish, 7 p.m.
Lamar State-Port Arthur at Angelina, 7 p.m.
Tyler at Kilgore, 7:30 p.m.