Gulf Coast women, Northwest and Chipola men into state title games

The Gulf Coast womens basketball team is back in the Region 8, or State Championship Saturday!

Gulf Coast struggled through a close first half in Friday's semifinal against Florida Southwestern, exchanging the lead several times, though thanks to 24 in the first half by Shayla Bennett, the Commodores did own a 40-37 lead by the break.

In the second half, they pulled away, holding Southwestern to just 17 points in the final two quarters, on the way to a 72-54 win. Bennett leading the way with 39! So Gulf Coast, now 25-2, will take on Eastern Florida in the Championship Saturday at 7:30 eastern.

Meanwhile on the men's side of things, it's an all Panhandle title game between Northwest Florida and Chipola.

The Raiders took control early and led the entire way against Florida Southwestern, winning by 21, 86-65.

The Indians also grabbed an early lead with a quick 7-0 run to start, and then cruised much of the way to beat St. Pete 93-72.

That sets up a fourth game between the Raiders and Indians, Northwest won the season series 2-1, but Chipola won their last meeting last month.

"That's the only thing that makes it a little difficult." Chipola head coach Bret Campbell told us Friday afternoon "Running into the championship game, I wish we could stay away from each other. That's part of it, and it just shows how good the Panhandle Conference is."

Coach DeMeo also know exactly thrilled with facing his conference rival yet again. "Whenever you play someone three times it's hard enough, so imagine playing somebody four times. And if you beat them the first three times, but the one good thing is the fact that they got us last time. It'll be enough motivation for my guys to be locked in and play at their best because Chipola's a very well coached team. Bret's a hell of a coach and their staff has done a great job.