Heading To Hutch: Chipola Wins State Tournament
March 8, 2008
By Chipola Staff
Tournament MVP Mario Little scored 24 points and
grabbed 7 rebounds, propelling #2 ranked Chipola to
an 89-78 win over #6 Okaloosa-Walton on Saturday
night in Marianna, FL. The win gives the Indians
back-to-back state championships and a spot in
Hutchinson, KS for the March 18-22 National
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys,” said Chipola head coach Greg Heiar. “To beat a team of that caliber for the third time this season was very difficult. They (Okaloosa-Walton) are well coached, have tremendous talent, and are all sophomores. This one means a lot.”
This is now the fourth State Championship for the Indians in the past five seasons, with last year’s team finishing as NJCAA National Runner-Up.
“I think we’ve been on a mission all season to get back out to Kansas,” said Heiar. “This is a journey that started in the locker room last year after losing to Midland in the finals. The kids have worked really hard to put themselves into this position.”
The now 32-1 Indians built a nine point lead midway through the 2nd half at 65-56 with 10:46 to play. But Okaloosa-Walton refused to give in to the Chipola run, eventually closing the gap to 74-71 with 3:46 to play.
After back-to-back Chipola baskets, Okaloosa-Walton’s Tay Waller drilled a 3pt field goal, narrowing the deficit to 78-74.
That’s when Little responded on the ensuing possession with his fourth 3pt field goal of the night, diminishing any Red Raider momentum.
“That was the shot of the night,” said Heiar. “Mario really came up big for us time and again.”
"I knew I had to assert myself offensively for us to win," said Little. "I hadn't been playing that good in the tournament before tonight, but I knew I was going to have to assert myself if we were going to get it done."
The Raiders would get to within six points with 1:30 to go, but could never come any closer.
Sophomore Mario Edwards scored 14 points, while freshman Casey Mitchell hit for 13, including three 3pt field goals. Freshman Vernon Teel added 11 points in the win.
Chipola will now play the Region Six (Kansas) winner on Tuesday, March 18th at 8:30 pm CST in Hutchinson, KS. The Kansas regional final is Tuesday evening (March 11), with eight teams competing Sunday in quarterfinal action.
All games can be heard live via Webcast. The tournament bracket can be found at www.njcaabbtrny.org/mod/bracket_2008.pdf