Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

March 8, 2013

Navarro Hoops: Runnin' Bulldogs back in the finals again

Navarro get closer to Hutch, beat No. 25 San Jacinto 79-75

TYLER — Navarro did it the Runnin' Bulldogs way at the Region XIV Tournament on Friday night -- grinding out another win.

The Runnin' Bulldogs did it this time with second-chance points, overcoming a 13-point first half deficit to beat San Jacinto 79-75 in a semifinal game at UT-Tyler's Herrington Patriot Center.

Navarro (25-7) is in the Region XIV Tournament Championship Game for the sixth time in seven years, this time against Lee College. The No. 5-seeded Runnin' Rebels stunned top-seed Kilgore 88-73 in the first semifinal game Friday night.

Navarro actually was hopeful for a third game against Kilgore, which has already won an automatic bid to the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. starting March 17. A Kilgore win would have meant Navarro would already have a national tournament bid sowed up with a Friday's win.

Now Navarro has to do what it has done three of the last four years -- win the tournament. The Bulldogs are 13-1 in their last 14 games in the regional tournament, their only defeat a quarterfinal loss to Paris in 2011.

The Runnin' Bulldogs keep winning here in Tyler because they can win close games. They found away against San Jacinto despite trailing 55-48 with 13:09 left in the game.

Navarro went on a 9-1 run to take a 57-56 lead with 8:34 left, crashing the boards to take the lead. Toney Foster and Jamar Goodwin both had putbacks during the run. It was a trend that played out the whole night -- Navarro outrebounded San Jacinto 60-34 and had 26 second-chance points to just four for the Ravens in the game.

"We worked hard tonight," Navarro coach Johnny Estelle said. "We grinded out a win. San Jacinto is a really tough team to play. They have four guys who can handle it and shoot the three. We found a way."

Navarro tried to get away from San Jacinto after finally taking its second lead of the game, but twice Ravens point guard Danny Lawhorn made a clutch 3-pointer to tie things, the second at 64-64 with 5:17 left in the game.

With the score still knotted at 67-67, Navarro made two plays to take the lead for good. First Harrison Hawkins, coming off the bench for the second straight game, made a three-point play, driving to the basket after a strong pick from Lamark Barnes and making a layup as he was fouled. Hawkins made a free throw for a 70-67 lead with 3:35 left.

"It was just wide open," Hawkins said. "Lamark set a great pick and I just took it straight in."

Navarro freshman guard Toney Foster, who was the team's leading scorer for a second straight night with 19 points, made a layup on the Bulldogs' next possession for a 72-67 lead.

Hawkins, who had 17 points, provided a dagger with a 3-poiner with 1:06 left for a 75-69 lead, though the Bulldogs did need clutch free throws down the stretch.

Navarro got off to a poor start shooting the ball and trailed 37-24 late in the first half. But the Bulldogs went on a 15-2 run to end the half to tie the game at 39-39.

Reserve Brandon Scott ignited the spurt, hitting a 3-pointer at one end and then drawing a charge at the other end of the floor to give Navarro some much needed momentum.

"We had some guys really stepped up tonight," Estelle said.

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