A defensive struggle transformed into an offensive explosion after halftime, and the Navarro Bulldog basketball team was able to come out on the winning end of it.

Overcoming a 10-4 run by McLennan to close the second half, the Runnin’ Bulldogs prevailed in a 74-73 decision Saturday night at the Wolens Center.

Highlanders sophomore guard Marvin Gentry poured in a game-high 31 points that included two desperation 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds of the game, but even his effort wasn’t enough to put McLennan on top.

“I thought we beat a good team tonight,” Navarro head coach Lewis Orr said. “They’re not going to lay down; they’re not going to surrender.”

The Bulldogs led for the entire first half, before McLennan got up early in the second on a transition jumper by Gentry that made it 27-26, MCC. Allen Coleman stole the ball on the ensuing Navarro possession and fed it to Gentry, who was fouled a fast-break layup. His three-point play gave the Highlanders their largest lead of the night at 30-26.

Then it was Jamaal McCoy’s chance to shine.

The Navarro freshman and Houston native rattled off 19 points and five 3-pointers that were part of a 27-13 Bulldog run halfway in the middle of the second half that gave them a 53-43 run.

“Jamaal shot the ball well for us,” Orr said. “He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win. We got the ball to him against their zone a few times, and that really hurt them.”

Perched in his favorite spot — outside the arc at the left baseline — McCoy fired away, connecting on all five of his second-half treys from that location. He finished by hitting 6 of 7 3s and led Navarro with 24 points, just four days after nailing five 3-pointers against Hill College.

“It was like the last game; I just started hitting,” McCoy said. “They kept on helping up, so of course when I got it I was going to shoot it. I’m a spot-up shooter, anyways.”

But even McCoy’s display couldn’t put McLennan away. The Highlanders trailed 58-47 with 6:13 remaining after a Shaun Reynolds free throw, but went on a quick 8-0 spurt that got them within three at 58-55.

When Gentry got hot late in the game (26 of his 31 came in the second half), the Bulldogs looked to their leaders for support.

Sophomore forward Thomas Morgan pulled down several key rebounds and Reynolds hit pivotal free throws down the stretch to keep McLennan at bay.

Reynolds slashed through the lane to draw contact on several occasions, earning 12 second-half trips to the line. He made 10 of 12 from the stripe in the second and 11 of 13 for the game as he finished with 22 points.

“Shaun made some free throws when he needed to,” Orr said. “If he doesn’t make those last two free throws, we’re not going to win.”

Gentry somehow banked in an off-balance running 3-point attempt with 16 ticks left on the clock, pulling MCC within one at 71-70. Jonathan Walker fouled Reynolds on Navarro’s ensuing inbound to send him to the line with 9.5 seconds left, where he connected on both attempts to give NC a 73-70 lead.

Walker stepped out of bounds as he dribbled downcourt on the Highlanders’ next possession, forcing them to foul the Bulldogs again. This time it was Kyndall Dykes, who hit the first free throw but missed the second with 4.2 on the clock to make it 74-70.

Dykes’ one shot ended up preventing overtime, as Gentry rushed down the floor and banked in yet another desperation heave in the last second to produce the final result.

“I couldn’t believe he kept doing that,” McCoy said. “We knew he was a good shooter coming in, but we didn’t know he’d make all of those clutch shots.”

Navarro shot 43 percent from the field and an impressive 42 percent from 3-point range. McClennan hit 50 percent of its field goals and 40 percent from outside the arc.

Navarro outrebounded McLennan 34-22, as freshman Warrell Span led the way with nine boards.

The Bulldogs move to 2-2 on the season and play the Dallas Diesel at the Wolens Center tonight at 7 p.m.

NOTES: All four of Navarro’s games this year have been decided by two or less points.

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Joel Weckerly may be contacted via e-mail at jweckerly@corsicanadailysun.com



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Non-conference

Navarro 74, McLennan 73

McLennan 23 50 — 73

Navarro 26 48 — 74

McLennan — Marvin Gentry 31, Ryan Bennett 15, Mark Moore 6, Chris Richards 6, Marlon Vincent 5, Allen Coleman 4, Jesse Gonzales 4, Jawan Bailey 2.

Navarro — Jamaal McCoy 24, Shaun Reynolds 22, Warrell Span 10, Kenneth Kelley 7, Kyndall Dykes 5, Thomas Morgan 2, Matt Miller 2, Nick Shaw 2.

Records — McLennan (n/a), Navarro (2-2).

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