By: Dustin Kent - NewsHerald.com
In a season of struggle for Chipola, the Indians have at least proven one thing in the Panhandle Conference: they can win at Gulf Coast.
The Indians won at the Billy Harrison Field House for the second time Wednesday night, dealing Gulf Coast a devastating 59-51 loss.
It was just the second Panhandle victory this season for the Indians, who previously won in Panama City 56-53 on Jan. 7, to improve to 2-8 in the league and 9-18 overall.
Gulf Coast, which came into the game in sole possession of second place, fell to 18-8 overall and 5-4 in the conference, dropping to third place thanks to Pensacola State's win over Tallahassee.
Dejuan Marrero led the Indians with 16 points, with Ty Baker adding 14, and Junior Saintel 13.
Quavius Copeland had 13 points to lead Gulf Coast, with Davaris McGowens adding 10, and Jonathan Wade, DeMario Beck, and Anton Waters all scoring eight each.
It was a loss that the Commodores could ill afford to take in the midst of a tight race with Pensacola for the state tournament, but it's one that Gulf Coast coach Jay Powell said was earned by lack of effort and execution by his team.
"I thought Chipola beat us to the 50-50 balls and I felt like it was because we were pressing a little bit," he said. "We missed probably 20 shots within five feet of the basket and you're not going to win if you don't make the easy ones.
"Our guard play was not as assertive as it had been and our post play on the boards was not near as assertive and tough as it had been. Even though Chipola's record is not that great, you're talking about a team with the talent to be preseason No. 1 in the nation and you're not going to beat them without great effort on the boards."
The Commodores led 30-29 at halftime and went up 38-35 after a short jumper by Beck early in the second half.
But the Indians answered with a 9-0 spurt featuring a pair of jumpers by Marrero and transition buckets by Saintel and Baker to go up 44-38 with 11:08 left.
A three-point play by McGowens broke up the run for GC, but Baker answered with a step-back 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to make it 47-41.
Chipola led by eight after a basket by Marrero with 6:45 to play, with a baseline drive by McGowens and a floater in the lane by Copeland helping GC cut the deficit to 52-47 with 4:21 remaining.
Baker answered with a big jumper from the left wing to put the Indians back up seven, and Gulf Coast wasn't able to get closer than six the rest of the way.
The Commodores struggled mightily on the offensive end in the second half against a sagging Chipola defense, managing just 13 points over the final 16 minutes and going without a field goal for the final four.
After a pair of free throws by Waters cut it to 55-49 with 3:38 left, the Indians were able to run nearly a minute off the clock thanks to a pair of offensive rebounds on their next possession resulting in a free throw by Saintel to go up seven.
Gulf Coast missed another chance to get closer when Wade missed a point-blank shot that could've cut it to five with 1:35 left, but still had a chance to make it a one-possession game in the final minute.
Waters hit two more free throws with 30.3 seconds to play to make it 57-51, with a quick Chipola turnover following to give it right back to the Commodores.
Copeland got free from the right wing for a clean look at a three to cut the lead in half, but the shot rimmed off and Baker split a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left to make it 58-51.
Chipola will return to action Tuesday at home against Tallahassee.