An “on fire” start for Navarro freshman Tatum Harborth sparked the Lady Panthers on Tuesday night in Geronimo, as Navarro clinched at least a share of the District 30-4A title with a 54-43 win over the La Vernia Bears.
In the boys game after, Navarro fell behind early but made a great comeback in the second half, only to come up just short to the Bears, 59-53.
Tatum Harborth had a three-pointer, made three layups on fast breaks and made four straight free throws in the first three minutes of the game in staking the Lady Panthers to an early 13-4 lead.
“She just got out, got some layups and hit a jumper there,” head coach and dad Darell Harborth said. “She gets out pretty well and if we can get a rebound, get an outlet to Laylin (Sturm), Laylin does a good job of finding her filling those lanes.
“That leads to some easy scores for her and her getting 13 to start the game was pretty awesome — but it came with teammates finding her when she was open.”
The layups came off of turnovers from the press, which the Panthers used effectively on the Bears in the first minutes of the contest.
“In the first quarter we really came out energized” Harborth said. “Our press had some good things that happened, and we got into more of our half court stuff, because everybody seems to be going over the top of the full court.
“Our half court presses were really good with getting some turnovers, some steals and getting them to throw the ball away.”
The Panthers rode the hot start to a 20-point opening quarter to lead by eight, and held serve in the second as they went into the half up by seven, 30-23.
After an opening bucket by the Bears cut the lead to five, the Panthers got buckets from Ryanne Hepp, Sturm and Micayla Hawes to push the lead to 11 at 36-25.
In the last two minutes of the third, Sara Benner and Hawes hit two big threes, Hawes’ coming right as the buzzer sounded, and Navarro built a 14-point cushion at 46-32.
“We talked about it at halftime, just win the quarter,” coach Harborth said. “We had a really outstanding third quarter to bump the lead back up to double digits.
“It’s nice to see when you’ve got six people scoring in the quarter. Micayla hit the buzzer-beater three to end the quarter so that was nice to see.”
Kailey Dietert got a basket and Tatum Harborth hit her second three of the night as the Panthers went up by 19 with just under four minutes left in the game, 51-32.
The Panthers went into a spread offense over the last three minutes of the game, effectively passing the ball and avoiding turnovers to seal the win.
“I was pretty proud of how we were able to hold the ball, run the clock and execute some plays out of that too,” coach Harborth said.
“We’ve been with the lead late in games and we’re getting better and better with that part of it too.”
For the game, Tatum Harborth led the Panthers with 19 points, while Sturm had nine, Hepp had eight and Hawes had six.
The Panthers clinched a share of the district title at 10-1 and 23-10 overall, with one game left on the schedule, Friday night at Cuero.
“Now we’ve got a co-championship for district, but we want to take care of business this Friday in Cuero and be the sole champion of the district,” Harborth said.
The Panthers made a run after falling behind by as many as 15 in the third quarter, but couldn’t quite complete the comeback as they fell to the Bears.
Navarro dug itself deep in the first half, managing just four points in the first quarter and 13 in the second to trail at the half by 14, 31-17.
The height and length of the Bears gave the Panthers trouble when penetrating into the lane and trying to get shots off, as those shots were altered or blocked leading to the early deficit.
“Early in the game we just didn’t have shots drop,” head coach John O’Dell said. “We got ourselves in a hole again and had to battle out. One of these days we’re not going to dig that hole.
“They play good defense and have a lot of big kids. We need to do our stuff, use head fakes more, get to the bucket and score.”
Down by 15 with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Panthers got back in the game with the help of a double technical and ejection of La Vernia post Dylan Bennett. Bennett got a taunting technical after a made bucket, then said something else to the officials and was tossed.
Cooper Guetzke made all four free throws, and the Panthers got a bucket from Preston Grobe to cut the lead to nine at 39-30.
“Kids are kids,” O’Dell said. “We hope we always keep our cool. I can’t deal with his kids, I’ve got my own to deal with.”
The Panthers went on a 6-2 run to start the fourth to cut the lead to five at 41-36, and Guetzke got another bucket to keep it there at 43-38.
But every time the Panthers got it close, a turnover, a travel call, or a miss seemed to stop the momentum.
“Last year these kids weren’t in a lot of close games,” O’Dell said. “Now we’re playing close games every single game, we’re gaining experience every time it happens and hopefully we’ll get better at it.”
After closing to within five again at 45-40, the Panthers had a tough stretch at the free throw line, missing five of six from the charity stripe as La Vernia pushed the lead back to 12, 53-41, with just over two minutes left in the contest.
The Panthers got three late threes, two from Ian Osborne and one from Grant Chase, but it wasn’t enough to pull out the win.
For the game, Osborne led the Panthers with 14 points, while Guetzke had 13 and Grobe chipped in with nine.
The loss dropped the Panthers to 5-4 (14-14 overall) in district, in fourth place with three games left before the playoffs. Navarro travels to fifth-place Cuero on Friday night.
Seguin fell two games behind the final playoff spot out of District 26-5A with a 63-53 loss to McCollum. The loss put Seguin at 6-6 (15-14 overall) in district play, two games behind Boerne Champion (8-4). Joseph Vela had 14, while Chris James and R.J. Acuna had 11 each. Gerrit Twitero was out with an injury.
The Lady Matadors (3-11, 13-20 overall) got a much-needed victory with a 40-19 win over McCollum at home, breaking a five-game winless streak. Frehman Reese Brittian led the way with 11, while Tresalyn Roberts had eight.
The Marion girls lost to Comfort, 57-42, to fall to 1-5 in district and 10-21 overall. Lizzie Abrameit had 17 to lead the Bulldogs.
The Marion boys also fell to the Bobcats, 47-36, to fall to 2-4 in district play and 12-15 overall. Ryken Autry had 14 and Easton Allen, nine, as the Bulldogs couldn’t hold on to a 19-16 halftime lead.