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Chipola Wins Third State Title in Four Years


An overwhelming atmosphere, a hostile crowd, an unrelenting opponent.

One more victory was simply too much to ask for the Cinderella team of Central Florida.  

The Indians of Chipola College defeated Central Florida Community College Saturday in the depths of an unfriendly Milton H. Johnson Health Center, capturing their third state title in four years. Chipola, the Panhandle Conference champion, the state's top-ranked team and the tournament host, soundly defeated the Patriots 84-67 in the title game of the NJCAA Region VIII/FCCAA State Tournament.

Coach of the Year Greg Heiar said, “I am extremely proud of our team and staff. We have put in countless hours. Nevertheless we know this is just one stepping stone. Our ultimate goal still awaits us in Hutchinson.”

The Indians jumped all over CFCC early, building a quick 11-4 lead as enormous Indiana commit DeAndre Thomas worked over the 6-10, 250-pound Sutton in the post for three scores in the paint in the opening minutes. However, Thomas was called for his second foul while he was going for a rebound four minutes into the game and did not play again until the second half.

With MFC Player of the Year Keyes coming off the bench in his return from the knee injury that kept him out of Friday's semifinal, CFCC fought back and briefly took a one-point lead, but an outburst from Chipola's Mario Little rebuilt the Indians' advantage. Little scored six straight points, all on fade-away jumpers over Keyes, to propel Chipola to a 34-24 halftime lead. The Indians ended the first half on a 10-3 run.

Heiar spoke of Little’s performance. “I felt Mario came off the bench tonight and gave us a great spark. I tell the guys everyday during practice that they have to stay into the game when they are on the bench. They never know when it will be their time to perform.”
Marvin Dibble offered a measure of resistance early in the second half, hitting two three-pointers to cut the Chipola lead to six. That proved to be CFCC's last gasp, especially as Keyes' bothersome knee kept him out after halftime. The game took a sharp turn for the worse under a barrage of long jumpers from Chipola's JaMarcus Ellis, another Indiana commit, and the Chipola lead reached 20 with 12 minutes to play. It never was in question again.

CFCC had more than the state's best team to deal with Saturday. The Chipola home crowd was still basking in the glory of the preceding game, in which the Chipola Lady Indians beat Gulf Coast 60-57 for their third consecutive women's state championship. The audience reveled in the spectacle of the Lady Indians preening for the cameras, pulling on pre-printed hats and t-shirts and taking a pair of scissors to the net.

Once that party was over, the Chipola men ran onto the court to a large ovation and the Jay-Z song "Encore" blasting over the sound system.

Then the Patriots took the court, Miranda bounding up and down in excitement at the head of the line, Keyes at the tail end after some last-minute work in the training room. The crowd failed to even acknowledge the entrance, saving their vigor for tipoff and sustaining it even as the game devolved into a blowout.

When it was over, the Patriots accepted their runner-up plaque, tolerated Chipola's second house party of the evening and trudged to their locker room, quickly dressing, heading for their bus and hitting the interstate bound for Ocala.

Chipola will now turn their attention towards the National Tournament and first round match-up against Georgia Perimeter.


“We’ve worked extremely hard this year, but our season is not over. We know we have to continue to play hard and play smart to be success in Hutch”, said Ed Berrios.

Ellis scored 22 points for the Indians, and was named tournament MVP. Johnnie Harris and DeAndre Thomas scored 12 points, while Mario Little contributed 13.




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