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Gulf Coast head coach Cayla Petree talks about start of Conference play Wednesday

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 10:05 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -It is a very big week for area juco basketball teams. This week marks the beginning of the all-important Panhandle Conference schedule, the games that will decide who moves on to the State Tournament.

Because of the delayed start to the season, and knowing teams wouldn’t have time to schedule many non-conference games before league play was set to begin, the Panhandle Conference bumping up the number conference games this season, from the normal slate of 12 games, 3 games against each league foe, up to 16 games, four against each league foe. For Chipola and Gulf Coast, it begins head to head Wednesday night, with the ladies leading things off with a 5:30 game. Tuesday I caught up with the Commodores first year coach, Cayla Petree, and I asked her about being able to play just two non-conference games before tipping off Panhandle play Wednesday.

“Definitely a unique situation, but everything this year has been unique.” coach Petree told me. “The good new is Chipola has the same scenario as we do. For me personally it’s a little bit more of a challenge. Just because my style of coaching, I’m really big on preparation. We put a huge value on knowing the other team’s play calls. You know what they’re gonna do out of bounds, what they’re gonna do on timeouts. Just looking at tendencies and things where we can steal a possession every now and then. So we won’t have quite as much information to pull from, but just excited to go play.”

And the important thing, the coach adds, is they are playing. That after a grueling fall with nearly 60 workouts with a single game.

“Yeah it just seems like everybody gives me a hard time for being so positive about whatever situation we’re in.” coach Petree told me. “But I really am truly grateful that we get to play. I mean that was miserable to practice, lift weights and train, just to sit in the office. That’s not what any of us are built to do. So we’ll play on the moon if we have to, on back to back nights.”

And when that game begins Wednesday night, against Chipola, it will be in front of a bunch of empty seats at the Harrison Field House. Gulf Coast not allowing fans in to games thus far this season. The Lady Commodores did get in one game at home already, and that gives the coach a sense that not having fans at home games, perhaps won’t hurt them that much.

“I tell you I went into the year thinking it was just going to be brutal.” says Petree. “And so it’s something I talked to the team about, creating our own energy. You know we’re trying to celebrate ‘threes’, ‘and ones”, charges, we’ve got to really build each other up. Provide a little juice, as well call it. But once we got in the game, as much as I love fans, and want them to play, we were so locked in. You didn’t really notice during the game.”

Again the ladies tip off Wednesday at 5:30, the men at 7:30.

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