Chipola Starts Quick, Rolls To Win
March 21, 2008
By Gene Schinzel (The Hutchinson News)
The Chipola, Fla., team fans expected to see
during the NJCAA Tournament was finally on display
After uneven performances in its first two games, Chipola jumped to a 15-point lead in the first six minutes and never looked back in earning a 72-53 victory over Itawamba, Miss., at the Sports Arena.
"We played Chipola basketball," Chipola coach Greg Heiar said. "The kids played really good basketball the first 30 minutes. I've said for two days that this isn't my team. But for the first 30 minutes today, that's our team - getting stops on the defensive end, sharing the ball on the offensive end and making plays."
Chipola, which had to rally from a 15-point deficit to beat Shelton State, Ala., on Thursday after losing in overtime to Seward County in the first round, advances to today's seventh-place game at noon against Paris, Texas.
Chipola scored on eight of its first nine possessions to put Itawamba in a hole it couldn't dig out from.
Mario Edwards was the catalyst to that quick start as he made three field goals in the first two minutes. And when he hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 14:20 left in the first half, he already had 12 points.
"I think Mario Edwards has been tremendous in the tournament. He's been a big-time player out here. That's kind of the way I've always envisioned the way he'd play," said Heiar of Edwards, who scored all 17 of his points in the first 16 minutes. "The second half of (the Shelton State) game and first half of this game, those are two of the best halves I've seen Mario play."
Heiar also used a variety of zone defenses to keep Itawamba off-balanced. Itawamba, which averaged 83 points per game this season, scored 22 the first 26 minutes.
Heiar said his team has played more zone at the national tournament than it's practiced all season.
"I thought the key was changing up defenses, playing some 1-3-1 zone and 2-3 (zone) and mixing up our man," Heiar said. "My wife told me this morning that if you want to win a national championship, you're going to have to buy into the zone."
Itwamba pulled within 18-9, but that was the only time Chipola didn't hold a double-digit lead after its initial surge.
Chipola scored 10 straight during a six-minute span later in the first half, and when University of Kansas recruit Mario Little hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, Chipola enjoyed a 38-17 halftime lead. Little scored 11 of his 13 points before halftime.
Itawamba made only six field goals in the opening half as Edwards matched Itawamba's point output.
Chipola stretched its lead to 31 - the biggest of the day - when Vernon Teel hit a 15-footer with 14 minutes left. Itawamba ended up shooting 32 percent from the field, but early in the second half, it was 8 of 37 (22 percent).
Freshman Sergio Kerusch led Itawamba with 15 points and 12 rebounds - most of those came late as Chipola's post players contained him and 6-foot-6 Santez Johnson.
"It was hard. I'm not really used to having big boys like they have to contain with in there," the 6-foot-4 Kerusch said.