Gulf Coast and Chipola men's teams set for conference openers

MARIANNA/PANAMA CITY, FL (WJHG/WECP) Saturday begins all-important Panhandle Conference play, with all six of our area teams will on the courts Saturday night for their league debuts. The teams of Chipola start with a trip east over to Tallahassee to face their counterparts at TCC!

Coach Foley and his Indians open Panhandle play Saturday at Tallahassee

On the men's side, coach Foley and his squad roll into conference play at 12-4. That includes two wins over Coastal Alabama and East Georgia State earlier this week at the two day tourney at Gulf Coast. So a little momentum carried over for the Indians heading into Saturday's game with second ranked Tallahassee.

Coach Foley tells us his team went through a hard 16 game non-conference slate, that included games against ranked opponents like Miami, top ranked Florida Southwestern, and two games against 5th ranked Polk, including a road win against the latter!

"Playing down there was a game that kind of prepares you for the Panhandle." coach Foley tells us. "Because it's not a place that they lose very often. We beat them at their place. You know we played Florida Southwestern, a top-five team, and that we were up three with under a minute to go. We were in control for 39 minutes of that game. So we've played a very challenging schedule that I think is going to help us prepare for those games. For those Panhandle Conference games because they are critical possession games, every possession matters. And every night you are going to go up against a high-quality team."

The games in Tallahassee tip at 5:30 for the ladies, 7:30 eastern for the men.

Meanwhile it will be the teams of Gulf Coast and Northwest Florida head to head in Niceville at 5:30 and 7:30 central.

The Raiders head into league play 10-4 ranked 8th in the state rankings. The Commodores are 10-3 and a notch ahead of the Raiders in that poll at number 7. Gulf Coast coming back from the holiday break strong, big wins earlier this week over East Georgia and Monroe while scoring 124 and 111 respectively.

For the Commodores first year head coach Phil Gaffney this will be a first taste of coaching in league play, but he's hip to the history of the conference, and he's seen the other teams play this season, and he knows what to expect.

"I think they're all great, but Northwest has kind of had a...eight of the last ten years has kind of had a grip on this conference." says coach Gaffney. "I think they've won the last five in a row. And I think this year it's wide open. Everybody can win. I think Pensacola is good, Northwest is good, Tallahassee is good, Chipola is good. I don't think there's one dominant team out there. And I think that's gonna make for a really fun conference season. It's gonna allow everybody maybe to compete all the way up to the last weekend."

Joel will have scores and highlights Saturday at 6 and 10.

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