Ocala, FL---It's an all Panhandle Conference Championship game down in Ocala. Both Northwest Florida and Chipola winning their state semifinals Friday night, the Lady Raiders beating St. Petersburg 75-70.
The Lady Indians beat Florida State of Jacksonville 69-62.
So this means a 4th meeting between the two Panhandle powers, the winner Saturday gets the state title and an automatic berth at Nationals. The loser just might get a trip to Kansas as well. Chipola won the three previous meetings against Northwest Florida this season on the way to an undefeated conference record.
As for their games Friday, the Raiders led by as many as 18 in the first and by 15 at halftime, before holding off a late charge by the Titans.
With the win, NWFS (24-5), the second ranked team in the state and seventh ranked squad in the country, advances to the state finals for the first time since 2011.
Carla Batchelor led Northwest with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Tyshara Fleming added 16, Simone Westbrook had 15 points.
The Indians Lady Indians, now 30-1 won for the 19th consecutive time and qualified for the state championship game for the second consecutive season.
Chipola took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Tiffany Lewis with 13:53 remaining after trailing by as many as nine points in the first half.
The Indians extended their lead to as many as eight, before the Blue Wave (24-7) closed to 61-58 with 2:10 remaining.
From there, Chipola made 7-of-8 from the foul line the rest of the way and downed FSC-J for the third time this season and eliminated the Blue Wave from the state tournament for the second consecutive season.
The win by the Indians sets up an all-Panhandle Conference final for the sixth straight season.
Panhandle teams have won the state championship every year since 1998. The last time a non-Panhandle team won the title was in 1997 when Central Florida took the crown.
Briana Wright led Chipola with 20 points and 12 rebounds, Khadijah Ellison added 19.
Since 2006, Chipola and NWFS have split 30 meetings.
The Indians have won five of the last seven matchups, including last year’s state semifinals.