Like a thief in the night, the Jacksonville Jaguars, have steadily picked off several Region XIV opponents to position themselves as one of the top four teams heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Jags (19-7, 10-5 in Region XIV) have won five of their last six conference outings and can post their 20th win of the season on Saturday night with a triumph over visiting Lee College (17-8, 9-5).
JC has already defeated the Rebels once this year, having eked out a 67-66 win in Baytown on Jan. 23.
Head coach Jody Bailey's bunch are currently in a tie for third place in the overall conference standings — San Jacinto also is 10-5 in league games and is 19-5 overall.
Navarro continues to cling onto the top spot in the conference with a 13-2 league slate (21-5 overall), followed by Kilgore's Rangers in second at 21-4, 11-4.
JC has just four regular-season games left on the docket and three of the four are against teams that are either tied with the Jags, or squads that are ahead of the Purple and White in the standings.
So, it appears that its going to be a wild ride to the finish line for the JC guys.
“We were 7-1 in January and if we can have that kind of success in our final stretch of games, I think we will be right their with the best of the best when the regular season ends,” Bailey said. “But the main thing is we have to keep looking ahead and just try to win each and every day...win the day in practice and win the day in the classroom, and if we can do that then we will be where we need to be come game time.”
Two of the reasons the Jags have been able to significantly elevate their game in 2013 has been the improved play and output from freshman post Davon Anderson (Bronx, NY, Adlai E. Stevenson Educational Complex) and sophomore guard Nimrod Hillard IV, who is from Madison, Wisc., East High School.
Anderson scored 20 points in the Jags' win at Blinn on Saturday and in JC's most recent win, an 84-79 decision over Coastal Bend in a game that took place Tuesday evening in Jacksonville, the long and lean Anderson came away with 15 points (10 of which came in the second half with the outcome undecided) and six rebounds.
He now averages just north of nine points a game while also accounting for 5.5 boards a night.
“Devon (Anderson) is a special player,” Bailey said. “He has the best motor on the team; it never stops and to call him Mr. Hustle would not do him justice. He's electric on the court.
“Sometimes he gets tired and I have to pull him out, but he is the type of player that you just can't sit out too long.”
Hillard, transferred into to JC in the off season after playing last season at University of South Dakota.
Bailey said that Hillard is simply not the same person now that he was when he first arrived in town in late last summer.
“The first semester Nimrod's attitude was pitiful,” Bailey said. “This semester his attitude has been so much better, he's just a better person to be around and he listens well and is so much more coachable.
“His numbers have improved and he has actually been one of our better rebounders over the past couple of weeks, despite being just 6-feet tall. Nimrod's hungary and he wants to win.”
Hillard averages just south of eight points a game.
He collars right at three boards a night, on average, and leads the Jags in assists with 99 (4.9 rpg.).
NOTES: Daniel Skinner continues to lead JC in scoring, with a 14.3 ppg average...Mitchell Farr cans just over 13 points and outing, while Kennedy Eubanks scores nearly 13 points a night...Hillard's 5 apg. average ranks him fourth in conference...JC's Tyrell Springer leads Region XIV in steals, with 2.8 spg...Hillard is second with 2.8 spg...The Curtis Carroll Fieldhouse will be the location for a Region XIV hoops twin bill on Saturday evening...The women will tangle with Trinity Valley at 4 p.m., followed the men's game with Lee at 6 p.m.