Indians Begin Quest for Redemption
Jackson County Floridan
the Tallahassee Eagles celebrated their state championship last season
on the Chipola Indians' home floor, following a thrilling
triple-overtime victory over the Indians in the final game, Jamarcus
Ellis watched on in disgust.
heart was crushed," the 6-foot-6-inch Chipola star said Tuesday. "I
couldn't take it, watching them accept their awards and trophies."
agony of watching your arch-rival celebrate a championship on your home
floor is enough to overwhelm a player with anger and bitterness.
Ellis, it was enough to make him change his future plans altogether.
star swingman, recently named Panhandle Conference Player of the Year by
league coaches, decided to forego his plans to sign with the University
of Iowa after his freshman season to come back to Chipola for another
chance at a title.
was a quick decision for me after (last year's title loss)," Ellis said.
"I knew as soon as the game was over that I was going to come back and
we would do it better next time."
Chipola sophomore center DeAndre Thomas, a former high school and AAU
teammate of Ellis' at Westinghouse High School in Chicago, was also on
the floor for the Indians during last year's title game defeat and saw
the pain in Ellis' eyes in the locker room afterwards.
"I've known him for eight years now and you could tell it really hurt
him," Thomas said. "In high school, we really didn't lose. Right after,
he promised (Chipola coach Greg Heiar) that we would win a state title
the next year."
27-2 with an outright conference championship and top ranking in the
state, the Indians will be the favorite this week to make good on Ellis'
"We're real confident," Ellis said. "If we work hard, watch enough film
and execute coach's gameplan, things will work out."
Thomas took it a step further.
"We're feeling like no one can beat us right now," the 6-foot-8-inch big
man said. "We're so confident. I think the only team that can beat us is
Chipola does go on to win the state title, Heiar said that it will be in
large part because of the experience and attitude of second-year players
like Ellis, Thomas, Johnnie Harris and Ed Berrios.
"I've been talking all year about our sophomores," the coach said. "They
have shown tremendous leadership. There's a real sense of hunger with
this team. They're focused on doing all of the little things necessary
While the Indians have been pretty consistent all year, the team appears
ready now to hit an extra gear.
"This last week of practice, we've elevated our energy level, focus and
our competitive spirit," Heiar said. "I think they can see the light at
the end of the tunnel."
Ellis, who has signed on, along with Thomas, to play for Indiana
University, echoed his coach's sentiment.
"Right now, we have to come out hard every game," he said. "At this
point, it's win or you go home."
Indians begin their tournament tonight at 8 p.m. with a matchup against
Southern Conference runner-up Indian River. The winner faces the winner
of Santa Fe/St. Petersburg Friday.