By Todd Wills
Paris coach Chuck Taylor stopped his counterpart Johnny Estelle in the hallway after Navarro’s 63-60 and told him he wanted his team to learn to close out wins like the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Navarro’s pretty good at it.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs won another home conference game in the final seconds Saturday, scoring the final three points to break the hearts of the Dragons. Harrison Hawkins drew a foul with two seconds left, made the first free throw and Toney Foster soared in and got a tip-in on the missed second free throw for the game’s final points.
Dragons point guard Anthony Adams’ halfcourt shot was way off at the buzzer as Navarro came away with its second last-second victory in three home games at the K. and Ida Wolens Special Event Center. Foster beat Lamar State-Port Arthur with a buzzer beater on Jan. 5.
Navarro (16-4, 8-1) kept it hold on the best record in Region XIV, a game ahead of Kilgore in the East Zone. The Runnin’ Bulldogs play the Rangers in Corsicana on Jan. 30.
Saturday’s game was another prime example of how difficult it is to win game in and game out in this conference. Paris (9-11, 3-6) had lost four of its last six games. The Dragons played the Bulldogs as tough as any opponent this season.
“It was a typical Navarro-Paris game,” Estelle said. “Both teams were trying to grind out a win.”
Navarro didn’t take its first lead until Duan Wright banked in a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer. It gave the Runnin’ Bulldogs a 31-30 lead going into the locker room.
Navarro built off the momentum, going on a 16-8 run to start the second half to go ahead 47-38. Princeton Onwas and Hawkins each nailed two 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the half.
After that, the Bulldogs struggled to make shots, settling too much for jumpers. Paris forced its way to the free throw line and scored nine straight points to tie the game at 47-47.
There were five ties and seven lead changes in the final 12:16 of the game. Navarro finally forced its way to the line when Hawkins drove and got fouled with 4:16 left in the game. He made two free throws to tie the game at 53-53.
Navarro made 4 of 6 free throws down the stretch, including two by Foster for a 60-57 lead with 52.2 seconds left.
“We took advantage of the gaps in the defense,” said Hawkins, who had 18 points to lead Navarro. “We were settling a little bit for the 3-pointer before that.”
Paris tied the game on free throws by Antonio Arnold and Anthony Adams with 19.2 seconds left, setting up Harrison for his game-winning free throw.
He drove straight to the basket with four seconds left, went up and got fouled with the body. His first free throw was pure as can be for the win with Foster’s tip-in putting the exclamation point on another win.
“I wanted to be in that situation,” Hawkins said. “I went up there with confidence.”
Navarro 63, Paris 60
Paris 30 30 — 60
Navarro 31 32 — 63
Paris — Antonio Arnold 6, Mike Harmon 3, Anthony Adams 20, Chris Jones 5, Delvin Dickerson 12, Eddie Leal 5, Sheldon Yearwood 4, Marcus Holt 2, Courtney Austin 2, Morris Mitchell 2.
Navarro — Harrison Hawkins 18, Shannon Lilly 4, Jonathan Benn 3, Princeton Onwas 12, David Woodard 4, Toney Foster 13, Duan Wright 3, Jamar Goodwin 2, Brandon Scott 3, Terrance Syon 1.
Rebounds — Navarro: Goodwin 9, Syon 8, Onwas 7, Foster 6. Assists — Navarro: Onwas 3, Hawkins 2, Lilly 2. Steals — Navarro: Hawkins 2, Lilly 2, Syon 2.
Records — Navarro 16-4, 8-1; Paris 9-11, 3-6.