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Chipola Wins a Squeaker in OT

 

Malcolm Armstead hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation, and the No. 1 Chipola Indians went on to take an 86-81 overtime win over the Tallahassee Eagles Saturday night in Tallahassee.


The Indians, who moved to 5-0 in Panhandle Conference play, are now up two games in the loss column over second-place Gulf Coast, which visits Chipola tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Chipola beat TCC 75-48 in the conference opener in Marianna Jan. 3. But Saturday night’s game saw the Indians get pushed to the limit for the first time by a Panhandle team this season.

Despite leading 18-6 to start the game and 34-26 at halftime, Chipola couldn’t put the pesky Eagles away. TCC took a six-point lead midway through the second half, and the teams exchanged the lead five times in the game.

It required a spectacular 3-pointer by Armstead at the buzzer to give the Indians a chance to get the win in overtime.

Trailing by three in the closing seconds of regulation, Chipola’s Gary Flowers attempted a 3-pointer that clanked off the front rim, bouncing to the top of the key directly to Armstead. He jumped, caught the ball and released the shot all in one motion and it swished through as time expired.

“It was an unbelievable shot,” Chipola coach Greg Heiar said after the game. “It was amazing how the ball bounced right to Malcolm like that. You’ve got to have a little luck sometimes. It was just a great college basketball game.”

The Indians controlled the overtime to notch their 20th straight win for the season.

This one was much more of a struggle than any of the previous 19.

“I think every championship team has to go through some adversity and win games like that,” Heiar said. “You’ve got to be able to win on your ‘C’ or ‘D’ game and (the opponent is) on their ‘A’ game. (TCC) played extremely well and made some good plays, but we did the little things we needed to do to win.“

The most important of those things was making free throws. The Indians made 35-of-42 from the charity stripe, giving them an eight-point advantage over the Eagles, who made 27-of-42.

“That was a huge difference in the game,” Heiar said. “I’m very proud of that. To win a game that way says a lot about our team and how they handle adversity. I hope it brings us closer together.“

Indians guard Casey Mitchell, who scored a game-high 37 points, made 25-of-26 from the free throw line himself, with Justin Brownlee adding 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Flowers also added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Armstead had six assists and five rebounds in addition to his 10 points.

Amazingly, the Indians won despite shooting just 27 percent from the field.

Heiar said it was inevitable that his team would have a dip in performance eventually.

“You win 19 in a row, you get a little complacent. That’s just how sports are,” the coach said. “You win all those games and the guys think they’re unbeatable. Sometimes you have a little slippage when you’re on a long win streak. We’ll take it as a loss, even though it’s a win in win column. We have to get back and do some things, correct some things to get better.“

One thing the Indians haven’t needed a lot of work on is defense. Chipola was giving up only 58 points per game through its first four conference games, and held TCC to 35 percent from the field and 21 percent from the 3-point line Saturday night.

’“Our defense in the end won us the game,’” Heiar said. “But I was real disappointed in our rebounding. We got beat 61-47, which is the first time in a long time we got crushed on the boards.“

In the end, though, one big shot by Armstead negated any Indian shortcomings during the first 40 minutes.

“He’s a winner. That kid’s a winner,” Heiar said of Armstead. “He made a winning play. For him to make that play says a lot about where he stands as a Chipola point guard.“

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