AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Fox Tech.
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The benefit of playing better teams is that they’ll let you know what your team needs to improve on.
Navarro (12-2) was willing to show Fox Tech (9-12) what it needed to concentrate on in practice when they played a non-district game Dec. 21. The dilemma was that UIL regulations didn’t allow the Buffaloes to practice following the 66-40 loss.
The game was played just before UIL rules mandated a five-day non-contact period, during which teams could neither play games nor practice.
“We’re young, but we’re playing really well,” seventh-year Fox Tech coach Kellen Morgan said. “That Navarro team is just good. They’ve beaten everybody in our district. I told our kids we had a chance to see how we stack up against the best teams in our district.”
The Buffaloes return just three players from their 2014-15 team which tied for fourth place in District 26-3A, but lost a tiebreaker game that would have qualified Fox Tech for the postseason for the first time since 2010. Morgan thinks his team could be capable of taking that additional step this season with eight upperclassmen on the roster.
Fox Tech showed its best prolonged display of its potential at the Lee Academy Tournament Dec. 11-12.
“We played really, really well,” Morgan said. “The guys grew up and got their confidence up. They came out flat today.”
Against Navarro, Fox Tech wasn’t able to get off to the kind of start that propelled it to a 55-49 upset win over Southside (3-9) in its previous game, Dec. 15. In that contest, the Buffaloes scored the first 14 points and fended off the Cardinals in the fourth quarter.
Navarro jumped out to an 18-2 lead in the first quarter, making four 3-point shots (two by Isaiha Grant).
“Our defense gave them a little difficulty,” Panthers coach Jim Weaver said. “We got up on them right away and we were able to keep the tempo up.”
The Panthers had advantages in size, strength and experience. They opened a 37-8 lead with 2:20 until halftime. Junior returnee Roger McCracken (14 points) drove for a couple of baskets and Cesar Perez scored off a drive to bring Fox Tech within 43-14 at halftime.
A basket from Fox Tech sophomore Angel Gonzalez (15 points) and a three-point shot from senior Mikin Bhakta accounted for the first five points of the second half. Three-pointers from Bhakta and McCracken kept the Panthers’ lead from growing in the fourth quarter. Gonzalez knocked down a layup off an inbounds pass from McCracken to make it 62-38 with 2:07 left.
“I was proud of the effort in the second half,” Morgan said. “Everybody pulled their weight. It could have been an 80-30 game if we hadn’t done that. We’ll keep working and getting better.”