Chipola Hits Break on High Note
by: Dustin Kent
The No. 8 Chipola Indians will head into the Christmas break on a high note after taking a pair of wins in Ocala last weekend.
Chipola (11-1) defeated Palm Beach 89-73 on Saturday, then topped Hillsborough 75-67 on Sunday for its fifth straight victory.
That game will mark the first of Chipola’s second four games in four days stretch, ending with Albany Tech on Dec. 31 in Pensacola.
Chipola will make its Panhandle Conference debut Jan. 9 at home against Gulf Coast.
Aaron Davis scored 20 points to lead the Indians on Saturday, knocking down 4-of-5 from long range, with Lashay Page adding 18.
Against Hillsborough, it was Page and Marvin Fitzgerald leading a balanced Chipola attack with 14 points each.
Dexter Ellington added 13 points, with Delwan Graham and Sam Grooms scoring nine each.
Against Palm Beach, the Indians had to face a triangle-and-two defense, with two defenders guarding Page and Ellington one-on-one and the other three playing zone.
“That’s the first time we’ve faced a junk defense like that this year,” Chipola coach Jake Headrick said. “That’s the first time for a lot of our guys to play against that. It took us a little bit to get used to it to execute against it and be patient.”
Chipola led by nine at the half and started pulling away midway through the second.
The Indians led the Hawks by seven at halftime, and extended the lead to 19 with four minutes left to play.
A late Hillsborough run made the game closer at the end, and Headrick said it was a case of his players sensing the finish line a little too early.
“At that point, I think your guys sort of start to look forward to the Christmas break,” the first-year coach said. “In the last four minutes, we just didn’t do a great job as a team with shot selection.
“We did a good job all weekend of playing hard, but in the last four minutes we started thinking about going home.”
Still, it was a solid overall effort for the Indians to close out the first part of the season, with a two-point loss to Howard their only negative mark of the year thus far.
But Headrick said that he and his players were very happy to not have another game for two more weeks.
“I think everybody is ready for a little break,” the coach said. “For a lot of these kids, it’s the first time they’ve been away from home. Some of them have been here for about four months now.
“As a staff, we need a break too. As a team, I hope our guys come back and realize that the Panhandle Conference is a whole different deal.”
Chipola will see the debut of heralded recruit Keith DeWitt in their first game back, and the Indians will need all the help they can get to continue their dominance of the Panhandle this season.
CC has won six straight conference titles and went a perfect 12-0 in league play last season.
“I think it’s as wide open as it has been in a while,” Headrick said of the Panhandle. “All five teams can win on any given night. I hope our guys will get prepared. Our thing has been getting better every day, one day at a time. Now we have to emphasize just how important every game is.”