By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
Now it’s back to basketball for the Navarro Runnin’ Bulldogs.
After a Saturday of pepper-spraying turmoil in Kilgore and the after effects that have included meetings with administrators and conflicting stories from the colleges playing out in the media, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have another crucial game Wednesday night at home against Tyler.
It presents a challenge on many fronts.
Navarro lost at Tyler, 75-73, earlier this month to an Apaches team that presented the most problems of any conference opponent. The Bulldogs struggled to find their offense against Tyler’s zone, especially from long range.
There’s 19 turnovers the Bulldogs committed in Saturday’s 88-78 loss to Kilgore. Can they clean that up?
Then there’s the emotional things to deal with — several players and coaches being pepper sprayed by Kilgore campus police after a post-game incident. The health issues, if any, that arose. And the distraction it created with Navarro’s season seemingly rolling along before losing Saturday.
The question is, mentally, are the Bulldogs ready to play basketball again?
“Most kids at that age of have short-term memory,” Estelle said. “Some things tend to linger with them. They kind of put it in compartments so to speak, the way they think. Some of them wake up in a new world every day anyway, to make light of the situation.
“We had a good practice yesterday. It’s sophomore night and for them it’s there’s last time suiting up at home. They’re going to want to come out and give our fans a great effort like always.”
The Bulldogs (22-6, 14-3) can clinch the Region XIV title with victories in their final two regular season games against Tyler (20-7, 11-6) and Trinity Valley (18-10, 9-8). Navarro goes to Athens on Saturday to play the Cardinals.
If Navarro loses one or both of its final two games, its chances of earning the regular-season title and an automatic bid to the national tournament diminishes some, depending on how Kilgore does against Tyler on Saturday.
If Navarro and Kilgore end up tied in the standings alone, the Rangers will win the tiebreaker because of their record in the East Zone (both teams currently have two losses in the East). San Jacinto and Jacksonville at 12-5 still are mathematically alive and could change the tiebreaker scenario in a three-way tie.
Got all of that?
For now, Navarro must focus on beating Tyler, setting aside what happened in Kilgore and the different scenarios that can still play out in the regular season race.
The Bulldogs had key turnovers, their point guards struggled for the first time in several games and no one really stepped and got hot in the final five minutes.
“We didn’t play bad the other day,” Estelle said. “We made some mental errors and Kilgore made some plays, they’re a good team and they won at home. So it’s not like we’re really bad. We’re still leading the league by half a game. We just need to finish this week.”
Tyler, just like Kilgore, overcame a halftime deficit at home to beat the Bulldogs. Still, Navarro had a chance to steal a win at the end.
Navarro did not shoot the ball against Tyler’s zone. The Bulldogs made 32 percent of their shots. In fact, they shot it worse from inside the 3-point arc — 29 percent — than outside of it, where they were 11 of 31 (35.5 percent). Most of that offense came from Harrison Hawkins, who made 6 of 13 3-pointers and finished with 21 points.
The Bulldogs also have to keep Tyler point guard Anthony Odunsi off the free throw line. Odunsi did a nice job of getting to the rim and getting fouled in the first game. He made 17 of his 19 free throws and finished with 31 points despite being in foul trouble in the first half.
“You can’t let anyone score 31 points against you,” Estelle said.
Health wise, Navarro is fine after Saturday, Estelle said. A few players are still experiencing burning sensations in their eyes and on their back area. A few minor breathing issues.
But everyone practiced on Monday and Tuesday.
“For the most part everyone’s going to be OK,” Estelle said.
Region XIV Basketball Standings
Team Conference Overall
Navarro 14-3 22-6
Kilgore 14-4 24-4
Tyler 11-6 20-7
Trinity Valley 9-8 18-10
Paris 8-10 14-15
Bossier Parish 2-15 9-16
Panola 0-17 8-19
Team Conference Overall
Jacksonville 13-5 22-7
San Jacinto 12-5 21-5
Lee 11-6 19-9
Lamar State 9-9 19-10
Angelina 9-9 16-13
Coastal Bend 7-10 14-11
Blinn 3-15 11-18
Tuesday's Conference Scores
Jacksonville 90, Lamar State 80
Wednesday’s Conference Schedule
Tyler at Navarro, 7 p.m.
Panola at Paris, 7 p.m.
Trinity Valley at Bossier Parish, 7 p.m.
Coastal Bend at Blinn, 7 p.m.
San Jacinto at Lee, 7 p.m.