overwhelming atmosphere, a hostile crowd, an unrelenting
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
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
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
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
Chipola will now turn their attention towards the National
Tournament and first round match-up against Georgia
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.