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Chipola Turns Focus to Postseason


After completing the first perfect Panhandle Conference season in school history, the top-ranked Chipola Indians can now turn their eyes to larger goals — winning state and national titles.

“The real season is about to begin,” according to Indians coach Greg Heiar.

The state tournament runs from March 5 to 7 at the Milton H. Johnson Health Center. The Indians are scheduled to open their postseason against Suncoast Conference runner-up Hillsborough at 6 p.m. Thursday night.

“It’s time for the players to take their game to another level,” Heiar said. “The postseason is about nothing but playing as hard as we can to get a win, whether it’s pretty or ugly. Whatever it takes is the main focus.

“It starts in practice. We’ll play how we practice in these days leading up to the tournament and the kids know that. They have great leadership and bring it every day.”

Chipola finished the regular season on a school record 27-game winning streak, and completed the perfect league mark with a 98-95 road win over Gulf Coast Saturday night.

“For myself as a basketball coach at Chipola and in the Panhandle, with the respect I have for the people I work for and the faculty and staff, the community, the league and the other institutions, it’s a great accomplishment,” Heiar said.

“It’s probably the best feeling I’ve had as a coach at Chipola when that buzzer sounded. I know how difficult a task that is to do. For this group to handle the success and win on the road, to do what they’ve been asked to do everyday ... I’m just very proud of these guys.”

The Indians took some well-earned time off after the game, returning to practice on Wednesday.

Chipola was scheduled to practice Thursday, today and Saturday before taking Sunday off and starting preparation for Thursday’s opener.

“Time off is a good thing and a bad thing,” Heiar said. “Obviously, we’d like to continue to play games over the weekend,  but the time can help us get better over the weekend. We’ll try to get ourselves in good shape physically and mentally for this tournament run.

“We’ll do a little more skill development, a little more conditioning than we do during the season, but it will still be a physical practice to get them prepared.”

An added benefit for the time off is the opportunity for the Indians’ leading scorer, Casey Mitchell, to rest his sore ankle, which kept him out of three games before returning against Gulf Coast. Mitchell scored 21 points in the victory, although Heiar said his star guard was still not 100 percent.

However, the coach said he believed Mitchell would be full speed against Hillsborough.

“Casey is getting better every day,” the coach said. “He’s still not 100 percent, but he’s getting better. He took really good shots (against Gulf Coast) and was more efficient with his shots.”

Heiar compared Hillsborough to the Commodores in their style of play.

“They’re really quick, they can shoot the ball, they’re undersized and they like to play up tempo,” the coach said. “They play a lot of zone, but they really want to try to get some traps and get it going up tempo, so we’ve got to be prepared for that."


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