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Chipola back at it for Gulf Coast Classic
[December 27, 2012]

Chipola back at it for Gulf Coast Classic

Dec 27, 2012 (Jackson County Floridan - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- After getting two weeks off for the Christmas break, the No. 3 Chipola Indians will jump back into it this weekend when they travel to Panama City for the Gulf Coast State Classic.

Chipola (15-0) will play Aiken Tech on Saturday at noon, and then face USC-Salkehatchie on Sunday at noon.

The Indians last played Dec. 15 against Baton Rouge Community College, barely escaping with a 61-59 in a rare close game for a Chipola team that has outscored opponents by 19.1 points per game this year.

Another close call may not be in the cards this weekend, as both of their opponents come in with sub-.500 records -- Aiken Tech is 4-6, and USC-Salkehatchie 5-7.

Still, Chipola coach Patrick Blake said he expected his team to be tested.

"Traditionally, these are two great programs out of South Carolina, and they always play a tough schedule and play a lot of Panhandle teams and teams in Florida," he said. "Even though the records don't really show it, they both have talented groups. They're very athletic teams that like to play up and down and get in the open floor.

"Aiken does a good job of pressuring you and forcing you into turnovers. From what I know about Salkehatchie, they're very similar in that they like to play up tempo and shoot a lot of threes, so we'll have to do a good job of defending the 3-point line." With players still making their way back to Chipola, the Indians will have just two days of practice to get ready for the weekend, so Blake said his team needed to make the most of a short prep time.

"These next two days will be very valuable and important," he said. "Hopefully, the break will just have given us a chance to rest and get our legs back and get mentally refreshed after a long first semester." The Indians were pretty dominant for most of the season's first half, winning all but three of their 15 games by double figures.

Chipola has been equally good offensively as defensively, ranking in the top 10 in the nation in both field goal percentage (52.8 percent) and defensive field goal percentage (36.6 percent), while also shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line and holding opponents to 26.6 percent from beyond the arc.

The Indians have five players currently shooting 40 percent or better on threes, with Carlos Morris (29-of-61), Demetrious Floyd (25-of-56), and Demone Harrison (18-of-43) leading the way.

The outside shooting combined with the interior play of Kruize Pinkins, Earl Watson, and Cinmeon Bowers -- the three combine for 35.7 points and 22 rebounds per game -- has given Chipola an inside-outside balance few junior college teams can boast.

"Last year, we were a post-heavy team, but this year we're more versatile," Blake said. "We can play big, we can use a four-guard lineup, we have a threat from the outside, and that definitely gives us a lot of different things we can do offensively. Being top 10 in the country in 3-point percentage and making about six per game, I'm excited about that, and obviously their willingness to play as a team and put egos aside and Chipola first. I'm very pleased with that." The Indians have six players currently averaging double figures scoring, ranging from Chris Thomas' 10.7 points per game to Morris' 13 points per game.

Sophomore point guard Terel Hall is averaging 7.2 points per game and leading the team with 5.6 assists per game, followed by Thomas with 4.4 assists per game.

Watson is tops in rebounding for Chipola at 7.8 per game, followed closely by Pinkins at 7.4.

While the numbers through 15 games look very good for the Indians, Blake said his players still have room to improve in the mental aspect of the game.

"With this team, I just think it's about having an everyday consistent grown man approach," he said. "When they're locked in and focused and ready for the challenge, that's when we play our best. We have to continue to fight complacency and continue to fight the natural tendency to relax when things are going your way." With this being the last weekend of games before the start of Panhandle Conference play Jan. 5 against Tallahassee, the coach said it's imperative that his team set a good tone going into next week.

"Absolutely, it's very important for us to start the second part of the year on the right foot to build on what we did in the first semester," Blake said. "We have to really tighten up the things that will help us be successful in conference." ___ (c)2012 Jackson County Floridan (Marianna, Fla.) Visit the Jackson County Floridan (Marianna, Fla.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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