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Chipola Preps for Pensacola After Gulf Coast Win

 

Winning on the road is supposed to be pretty difficult in the Panhandle Conference.
 

The No. 1 Chipola Indians are making it look easy.

The top-ranked Indians took another impressive road win Wednesday night with an 89-73 triumph over the Gulf Coast Commodores, just four days after beating Northwest Florida State in Niceville for the first time in three tries.

“The important thing is getting off to a great start,” Chipola coach Greg Heiar said, noting his team’s 3-0 league record and two-game advantage over every other team in the conference.

“Those were two big road victories. It just says a lot about the leadership of this team and the maturity of this team because those aren’t easy places to go play at.”

Chipola beat NWF State 69-60 Jan. 10, coming back from a 10-point deficit with 10 minutes to play.

Against Gulf Coast, the Indians faced an eight-point deficit early in the game but stormed back to lead by as many as 24 points in the second half.

“I thought we played really, really good team basketball,” Heiar said of Wednesday night. “It seems like, as a team, we’re getting better and better every time we play. That’s a great sign.”

The Indians led 40-33 at halftime and quickly expanded the lead in the second half.

Heiar said he was extremely impressed by his team giving such a dominant performance against a much-improved Gulf Coast team in front of a hostile crowd.

“I think it says a lot about this team. We’re extremely talented, but we have a really mature approach,” the coach said. “We have a mature group of guys. I can’t say enough about their togetherness, how they handle any situation put forth in front of them. They accept every challenge and that’s the sign of a special team.”

Casey Mitchell led the Indians with 26 points, with Justin Brownlee adding 23 and Josh Sain 11.

Chipola improved to 19-1 on the season with a perfect league mark.

Every other team in the Panhandle Conference has two losses.

Chipola can extend its lead over PJC (17-4, 1-2), which defeated Tallahassee 62-55 Wednesday, to three games with a win Saturday night.

“PJC comes in here and they need to get a victory, so they’re going to play us tough,” Heiar said of the Pirates. “It’s like a three-game series with them, so the first game is so important.

“They’re going to give us their best shot, so we’ve got to come out and give them our best shot as well.”

The Pirates have a balanced offensive attack with four players averaging double figures scoring, led by Jalin Thomas at 13.3 points per game.

Heiar said the Pirates love to get the ball inside and force you to defend the interior.

“They want to drive the ball and pound the ball in the paint,” the coach said. “They get the ball to the paint, which is the way you’re supposed to play in the halfcourt.”

Heiar said that the Pirates will force the Indians to work for everything they get on both ends of the court.

“They’ve got nine guys who can play and they all know their roles,” the coach said. “(PJC coach Paul Swanson) has done a great job of getting them to play and fight hard on every possession.

“You watch them on tape and say, ‘wow they play hard.’ They do whatever they have to do to win. They’re going to compete. for 40 minutes.”

After a pair of tough road games, Heiar said the Indians are happy to get back to more familiar surroundings.

“It’s good to get back home and play in front of our fans,” the coach said. “It’s a great opportunity for the fans to come out and see this group of guys play. I’ve never had a team like this. The guys are so fun to watch. They play hard, play together and play the right way, from best player all the way down to last guy on the bench.

“I think the fans have an excellent opportunity to see this team. There hasn’t been a team like this at Chipola in a long time.”

The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m.

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