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Berrios Makes His Own Mark

 

By DUSTIN KENT  
Jackson County Floridan

March 7, 2007

 

After the graduation of All-American point guard Stefhon Hannah following the 2005-06 season, Chipola Indians' point guard duties fell to little-used, rising sophomore Ed Berrios.

 

Berrios, a Bronx, N.Y native, spent most of his freshman season watching Hannah, along with fellow guards Mike Taylor and Ryne Hamblet, run the Indians' high-flying offensive attack all the way to 29 wins, a Panhandle Conference title and a second-place finish in the state tournament.

 

When the talented trio of Hannah, Taylor and Hamblet all moved on to Division I colleges, the onus of being the Indians' quarterback fell to Berrios.

 

For many, the expectations of replacing an All-American and conference player of the year like Hannah might be overwhelming.

 

"There was some pressure," Berrios said Tuesday of replacing Hannah, "but I've been handling pressure my whole life. I've played basketball my whole life and playing in big stadiums against big-time players. So it wasn't that tough."

 

While his stats have been modest for most of the season - 8.6 points and 3.9 assists per game - Chipola coach Greg Heiar said that numbers don't tell the full story of Berrios' effect on the team.

 

"Ed is our general. He gets us into our stuff offensively, makes plays when we need him to, gets the ball into the right players' hands, he understands scouting reports...It's hard to find point guards like Ed because he really is like a branch of the coaching staff," Heiar said. "He has sacrificed a lot of his game for the team."

 

While Berrios has played the role of distributor and floor general for most of the season, when the Indians needed it most - as in the conference title game Feb. 24 against Tallahassee - he gave the team a huge offensive spark.

 

After struggling for much of a first half that saw the Indians trail by as much as 11 points, Berrios exploded for 17 of his team-high 19 points in the second half en route to a 100-87 win.

 

Berrios' 10 points in the first 4:25 of the second half extended a two-point Chipola lead to 14 and the Indians never looked back. It was a signature performance for Berrios, the kind Indians fans would've expected from Hannah in his time wearing a Chipola uniform.

 

"I think that game showed that (Berrios) is not afraid to make plays in clutch situations," Heiar said. "I think that game gave him a sense of confidence to know that he can get us where we need to go."

 

For Berrios, it was a matter or pride after a tough first half.

 

"I just thought at the half that I could've done a lot more than I was doing," he said. "The coaches were telling me at halftime to be more aggressive and make something happen. I just felt like I had to come out and answer coach Heiar's call. Fortunately, I came out hot."

 

Combined with a 20-point performance the previous game against Okaloosa-Walton and four straight games scoring in double figures, Berrios is playing with a newfound faith in his ability to make big plays in big situations.

 

"I've been building my confidence lately," he said. "I've been more consistent. I know that if there's a big shot or a big play to be made, I'm confident that I can make it. I'm just thankful to the coaches for giving me the opportunity to showcase my talents."

 

Heiar gives all the credit to Berrios.

 

"My expectation of him coming into the year is exactly what he is doing," the coach said. "He is the most improved point guard from one year to another that I've ever coached. He has worked really hard and it has payed off."

 

Of course, the ultimate payoff for Berrios and the entire Indians' squad would be to celebrate a state championship after Saturday's FCCAA Region VIII final at the Milton H. Johnson Health Center, followed by a run at the school's first-ever national title.

 

"I got to taste it a little last year," Berrios said of a state title. "Unfortunately, we didn't get it. After our experience last year, to bring a title back here would mean a lot to me. That would be a great accomplishment.

 

 

 
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