By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
Not going anywhere for a while?
You might have needed a Snickers Tuesday at Navarro, where the Bulldogs pulled out a huge 63-57 win over Jacksonville in the Region XIV opener on a night when the two teams combined to shoot 67 free throws.
That’s no misprint: Navarro made 22 of 36 and Jacksonville dropped in 19 of 32 free throws. The Jaguars went through a stretch of almost 11 minutes (10:42) without scoring a basket from the floor in the second half.
And at the end of the day, that’s what this game was really all about -- Navarro’s in-your-face defense that simply smothered the Jaguars and gave the Bulldogs a chance to win on a night when the home court rims betrayed them.
Navarro missed 10 shots in a row during a painful stretch in the first half and shot just 29 percent (17 for 58) for the night from the floor.
You know what? It doesn’t matter.
“It’s better to be 1-0 than to be 0-1,” Navarro first-year Coach Michael Landers said afterward. “In this league when you get an opportunity to win a game, you have to win it. It’s one that we can build on, and that’s what we’re going to do.’’
Even when Navarro struggled the most in the first half, Jacksonville couldn’t run away and it took a free throw by Davvin Hill with 37 seconds left to give Jacksonville a 27-26 halftime lead.
Hill finished with 11 points, and Jacksonville’s Anthony Sharp and Chris Campbell also scored 11 for the Jaguars. Jake Eynon, who is from Ipswitch, England, hit a pair of 3s and finished with eight points.
In the second half Navarro started finding the basket and little by little took control of the game. After falling behind 33-28, Jamar Goodwin, who led Navarro with 16 points, hit a 3, and Toney Foster, who scored 12, followed that play with a baseline drive to knot things at 33 with 14:50 left.
That spurt seemed to ignite the Bulldogs, and Jaleel Cousins had back-to-back inside moves to score four of his eight points to lift Navarro to a 43-41 lead. Duan Wright, who scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half, buried two free throws and then went on a coast-to-coast steal and drive to give Navarro a 47-42 lead with 7:38 left and the Bulldogs never trailed after that.
Jacksonville (4-6, 0-1) went on that long drought without a basket from the floor, but stayed in the game by going to the free throw line 10 times during that stretch, making 12 of 20.
It didn’t matter.
Once Navarro (6-3, 1-0) seized the lead it was a different game. Cousins’ back-to-back act started a 17-5 run that was topped off with a 3 from Khory Ross, who scored five points all night, and a drive and reverse by Foster that gave Navarro a 56-46 lead with 2:02 left in the game.
“They gave us problems with their zone, and we couldn’t get any rhythm,’’ Landers said. “We were really good defensively, but we couldn’t put any baskets together. We finally got a little separation (in the second half). But couldn’t hit a free throw down the stretch.’’
Navarro missed eight of 12 free throws in the final 1:02 to allow Jacksonville to close the gap to six points. But in the end, it didn’t matter.
“This was the first (Region XIV) game and we needed to win it,’’ Landers said. “It feels really good to win the first conference game. Offensively, we’re going to get better. We had good looks at the basket and I think we are going to make those shots (in the future). We found a way to win the first conference game.
“I think defensively we were solid, and we made just enough shots in the second half to get separation.”
There’s also that big separation from being 0-1 to being 1-0 -- and that’s the one that matters.