The No. 20 KC Rangers toppled Region XIV North Zone-leading Navarro 88-78 in front of a rowdy home crowd Saturdays afternoon, improving to 22-4 (13-4 conference).
The Rangers avoided the dreadful start they had last time they met Navarro, keeping the game much closer from the start. Navarro led the majority of the first half and took a 39-37 lead into the half.
Navarro outshot KC from the field 52.2 percent to 44 percent in the first half. Going 4 for 9 from three-point range helped the Bulldogs maintain the advantage. KC stayed close by shooting an impressive 14 for 18 from the foul line.
The game remained a close physical affair throughout the second half. With 10 minutes left to play, Quinton Upshur drained a three-pointer to put the Rangers up 58-55, a lead they would not relinquish.
Maruice Taylor led KC in scoring with 27, while Upshur added 23. Lonnie McClanahan had 14 points while shooting 10 for 12 from the charity stripe. Toney Foster dropped 28 for the Bulldogs, and Jamar Goodwin was the only other Navarro player in double figures with 11.
The game saw tensions escalate between fans of both teams. After the game, Navarro players attempted to exit the locker room and return to the court. According to KCPD reports, officers felt threatened and pepper sprayed the team. An investigation is under way.
Head coach Brian Hoberecht acknowledged the tension, but was pleased his players stayed out of the post-game incidents.
“I think tonight was a very emotional game,” Hoberecht said. “I think it was very high strung on both teams’ part because it was one and two in the league, and both programs have a lot of pride in what they’re trying to put out on the floor.”
Hoberecht believes the game will prove to be valuable experience for the Rangers as they prepare for post-season basketball.
“I think it was great experience for us because it was a playoff atmosphere,” Hoberecht said. “I thought our guys competed extremely hard.”
KC has one game remaining in its regular season. The Rangers will be in action 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2, when they visit Tyler Junior College.
With a win KC will be named regular season conference champions earning a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament in Hutchison, Kansas.