Chipola Holds off Gulf Coast
by Dustin Kent - JC Floridan
After watching a 14-point lead evaporate, the No. 5 Chipola Indians regrouped and held on for a 71-69 win Saturday night over the visiting Gulf Coast Commodores.
Chipola (16-1) led 36-32 at halftime and extended to 54-40 with a 7-0 run early in the second half.
However, the Commodores answered with an 18-4 run of their own, tying the game at 58-58 on a Willie Kirkland 3-pointer with 7:34 left in the game.
Fortunately for the Indians, sophomore guard Lashay Page saved his best for last, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the final five minutes of the game.
Page’s jumper with 4:55 on the clock put Chipola up 60-58.
After a driving basket by Gulf Coast’s Johnnie Davis tied it back up, Page hit a 3-pointer to make it 63-60.
Another triple by Page put the Indians up 68-62 with 3:02 to play.
After Kirkland answered with a 3-pointer of his own, Page again had the response with his third triple in a row, for a 71-65 lead with 2:20 on the clock.
Gulf Coast got the deficit back to two with a basket by Davis and a tip-in by Michael Porrini. This followed a miss by Davis, after Porrini had stripped Dexter Ellington at the other end.
Leading 71-69, Chipola had a chance to put the game away, but Ellington missed a jumper. Gulf Coast called time out near halfcourt with 5.3 seconds to play.
With three fouls still to give before Gulf Coast would be in the bonus, Indians coach Jake Headrick called for his players to commit fouls on the Commodores after consecutive inbound plays. This ran the clock down to 1.9 seconds before Gulf Coast’s final attempt.
The strategy was successful, as the Commodores were left with a desperation 3-point heave by Davis, which banked off the rim as time expired.
It was an exciting finish to a game that appeared to be getting out of hand early in the second half.
“I told the guys that you have to be ready for this in the Panhandle Conference because these teams won’t quit,” Headrick said after the game. “Gulf Coast fought hard to the end. But this is why kids come to Chipola, to play in games like this. The atmosphere was unbelievable. It shows how tough this league is.”
Page’s 15 points led Chipola, with John Taylor adding 11, and Ellington and Keith DeWitt each contributing 10 points.
Kirkland led Gulf Coast with 20 points, with the former Graceville star scoring 12 of those points in the final 20 minutes.
Porrini also chipped in 18 for the Commodores. Davis added 15, but he shot just 6-of-22 from the field and 1-of-8 from the 3-point line.
Gulf Coast shot only 30 percent from the field as a team. But the Commodores stayed in the game with offensive rebounding, cleaning up 24 off of the offensive glass, compared to 14 for Chipola.
“They’re as good of a rebounding team as there is in the country,” Headrick said of the Commodores. “They really hurt us down there, and they really shot the three well also. That got them back in it.”
But Headrick said he was proud of how his club responded when the pressure was at its highest.
“Our guys answered the bell. They really hate to lose,” the coach said. “That’s the one thing I’ll say for my guys, they really hate losing. John Taylor and Keith DeWitt both gave us a great lift in the first half, and in the second half it was Lashay Page. He struggled early, but he stayed patient, stepped up for us late and hit some big shots.”
The Indians next go on the road to play Pensacola on Wednesday, then return home Saturday to host Northwest Florida.