By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
These are the numbers -- the Ripley’s Believe it Not numbers -- from Navarro’s 83-78 win over San Jacinto Saturday afternoon. Believe this: The two teams combined to shoot 93 free throws in a game that stopped and started more times than rush-hour traffic in Dallas.
But when it was over, Navarro had survived in a game the Bulldogs needed for many reasons. It was their first game since Dec. 13, and it was not only the first game of the year, but the first of a 16-game conference run of games that will define Navarro’s season.
Define this team as gutsy and gritty with a strong dose of no-quit.
“Our guys showed a lot of heart,” said Navarro Coach Michael Landers, who was ecstatic over the way his team came back to win. “I thought we played hard and what we lacked in execution we made up for in effort. Our kids battled.’’
It was tough to get any momentum in a game that seemed to be played from the free throw line. Navarro made only 28-of-48 free throws while San Jacinto hit 30-of-45. Each team picked up 31 fouls (that’s right, 62 fouls were called and five players fouled out of the game).
Tony Foster, who hit three 3-pointers, led Navarro with 14 points and Jaleel Cousins dropped in 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds was a force inside for the Bulldogs. Anthony Livingston led San Jacinto with 17 points.
In a game that bounced back-and-forth for most of the day, San Jacinto, which led 45-44 at halftime, finally took over midway in the second half, and when Jevonlean Hedgeman, who finished with 14 points, hit a free throw with 9:00 left he gave San Jac a 68-59 lead. He missed the second shot of the one-and-one, which kept the gap under 10.
That’s when Navarro went into another gear.
Suddenly, with defeat staring them right in the eyes, the Bulldogs ripped off a 17-2 run that started when Shannon Lilly busted a 3-pointer that seemed to ignite Navarro. Troy Jones went inside and completed the and-one play for to make it a 68-65 game as Navarro scored six points in less than a minute.
On the other end of the court, the Ravens (10-4, 2-2) couldn’t find the basket and a couple of turnovers and a 0-for-4 stretch from the floor opened the door for Navarro
Jamar Goodwin scored on a fast break after a steal to close to 68-67 and then after a charge at the other end, Goodwin, who finished with 12 points, hit a pair of free throws with 6:04 left to give the Bulldogs a 69-68 lead. The Ravens missed another jumper and DaShawn Robinson, who finished with 13 points, hit a drive to make it 71-68 before Richard Benedyth hit a pair of free throws for San Jac to end the Ravens drought. But Chris Boleware fired back for the Bulldogs, hitting a drive and then nailing a long 3 to give Navarro a 76-70 lead with 4:34 left.
“They got up by nine, and we could have been done,’’ Landers said. “But our guys didn’t give up. We had a lot of guys step up at that point. They showed a lot of heart.’’
Landers couldn’t talk enough about what the game meant for his kids, who have 15 games left -- all conference games. They’re 10-5 for the season, but that record doesn’t matter.
“All I know is we are 3-1 in the conference,’’ Landers said. “That’s what matters. This was a big win for us, a conference win and win we needed. We have 15 conference games left and we hope we can build off this win.”