Navarro’s Ed Manuel

Daily Sun photo/Ron Farmer

Navarro’s Ed Manuel puts up a shot Wednesday night during the Bulldogs’ 98-64 romp over winless Victoria.

Here’s the secret to Navarro’s 98-64 win over Victoria Wednesday night at the Wolens SEC.

That one-sided romp had almost nothing to do with Victoria, a winless team playing in its first season at the NJCAA Division I level.

“It’s about March,” said Navarro’s Dravon Clayborn, one of five Bulldogs to put up double figures in the game.

“The goal is to get ready for March. It’s definitely a confidence builder, especially coming off a loss.”

It wasn’t just a loss. Navarro played its worst game of the season in Monday night’s 77-68 loss in Jacksonville, where the Dawgs got behind 19-2.

Coach Grant McMillan let his players have it the after that game.

“We challenged them,” McMillan said. “We’re not a good enough team to go into a gym and have a half effort.

“Not in this conference. It’s like a boxing match every night in this league.

“We had the worst effort of the year when we played Monday. I just hope that was a wakeup call. We really challenged our guys after that game and they met the challenge tonight.”

Clayborn’s point is well made. It is all about March for Navarro, a program that has played for the Region XIV title six of the last seven years.

This year’s team — with a new look, new players and a new coach — is hoping for a longer run in the playoffs in March. That’s what Wednesday’s bounce back game against Victoria was all about — about stepping up in January to get ready for a run later.

The Bulldogs are playing short-handed these days and had only eight players available Monday, and just nine Wednesday at home against Victoria, an 0-10 team that is swimming at the deeper end of the pool this year in the Region XIV race.

The Dawgs didn’t just win, they won going away and every player had valuable minutes in the game.

“It was really good for the young guys to get a chance to play,” said Clayborn, who has been one of the leaders all year.

He matched his season high with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor, and he and did a little of everything in his limited time on the court, grabbing six rebounds, handing out seven assists and making four steals for a Navarro team that stole the ball and ran like crazy.

The Dawgs sprinted out to a 17-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game that included three dunks in a row and a pair of 3-pointers from Souleymane Doumbia, Navarro’s 7-footer from the Ivory Coast.

All nine players scored and five put up double figures, including Sherman Robinson, who had a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double, and German Kasanzi, who came off the bench and led the Dawgs with 19 points and had a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Brian Washington dropped in 10 points and Ed Manuel scored eight, including six in the first half when Navarro set the tone for the night.

The Dawgs made 42 of 82 shots, shooting 51 percent from the field (they shot only 39 percent Monday in Jacksonville) and had a season-high 55 rebounds. Navarro led by as much as 44 points (91-47).

The bounce-back win gives the Bulldogs a 4-2 record in the Region XIV East. They play Lamar State at home at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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