By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
They'll be talking about Kilgore 88, Navarro 78 for years to come.
Or until the teams play again, maybe in the Region XIV Championship Game in two weeks at UT-Tyler.
In the most intense game of the season, Navarro's turnovers were the difference as No. 20 Kilgore held off the Runnin' Bulldogs to stay alive in the conference race going into the final week of the regular season.
Navarro (22-6, 14-3) had 19 turnovers, seven over its season average, and that prevented the Bulldogs from clinching the regular season title and a berth in NJCAA National Tournament next month. Kilgore (23-4, 14-4) evened the season series, gained revenge for a 69-59 loss in Corsicana earlier in this month and pulled within a 1/2 game of Navarro.
But it was the aftermath of the game that marred what was a great basketball game. Kilgore's fans celebrated at midcourt after the final horn and lingered after the game.
Minutes later, several of the Bulldogs came out of the entry of their locker room (they didn't go back on the court) behind the scorer's table. A Kilgore Campus policeman later sprayed pepper spray into the visitor's locker room. Several of Navarro's coaches and players were affected by the pepper spray and were coughing and dealing with eye issues.
Navarro led at halftime, 39-37, but Kilgore attacked the Bulldogs in the second half, forcing turnovers and getting to the free throw line. After several lead changes in the first 10 minutes of the half, Kilgore was able to take a 67-61 lead with 7:09 left in the game.
Navarro battled back. Toney Foster and Princeton Onwas combined for three free throws and Lamark Barnes had a putback to make it 68-66 with 5:01 left. But again Kilgore responded, taking the lead to 79-67 with 2:38 left with Maurice Taylor scoring four points during the stretch.
Navarro was able to creep within 81-75 with a minute left and missed consecutive 3-pointers with 45 seconds remaining that would have made it a one-possession game.
Kilgore attacked Navarro's man-to-man defense for the second game this season, getting to the free throw line 54 times. The Rangers made 40 free throws. They've shot 105 free throws in the two games. Navarro made 32 of 43 free throws.
Navarro bolted out to a 33-24 lead with a 7-0 run in a 1:21 span late in the first half. Foster nailed a 3-pointer, Jamar Goodwin had a steal and a dunk and Foster made a short jumper in the lane with 5:49 left in the half.
Foster exploded in the opening half, scoring 11 of Navarro's 16 points as the Bulldogs went from trailing 20-19 with 9:47 left in the first half to leading 35-28 with 4:22 left before haltime.
Kilgore did make a run in the last four minutes of the first half as turnovers and fouls plagued the Bulldogs. Maurice Taylor twice drive to the basket, scored and drew a foul, making one of the two free throws to cut Navarro's lead to 38-35 late in the half.
Foster finished with 29 points to lead Navarro. Taylor had 27 points for Kilgore.
Navarro has a tough week ahead. The Bulldogs host third-place Tyler on Wednesday at the Wolens Center and then play at fourth-place Trinity Valley on Saturday. Kilgore has an open date Wednesday and plays at Tyler on Saturday.
Kilgore 88, Navarro 78
Navarro (78) -- Harrison Hawkins 8, Johnathan Benn 2, Princeton Onwas 7, David Woodard 2, Toney Foster 28, Duan Wright 8, Jamar Goodwin 11, Brandon Scott 5, Terrance Syon 2, Lamark Barnes 5.
Kilgore (88) -- Lonnie McClanahan 14, Quinton Upshur 23, Chinedu Amajoyi 8, Nardie Bogues 3, Maurice Taylor 27, Matt Gamberoni 4, Erick Diouf 9.
Records -- Navarro 22-6, 14-3 in Region XIV; Kilgore 24-4, 14-4.