PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panhandle play is only a week away for men's NJCAA basketball teams.
Sunday and Monday are a tease of what to expect.
National No. 3 Northwest Florida, No. 18 Chipola, and Gulf Coast all play non-conference games Sunday and Monday under the same roof as part of the Visit Panama City Beach Classic, and all three teams won their openers.
The hosting Commodores beat Gordon State 85-67, with Jacolbey Owens scoring a season-high 30 points and Blountstown alum KK Godwin dropping 20. After the game, Godwin earned praise from head coach Jay Powell.
"Coming out of high school, there was and is a concern because he's from right up the road and he didn't go to a huge high school, but he was coached really well," Powell said about the freshman and former coach Brent Zessin. "He's adjusted well. I'm pleased with him and I think that he'll continue to get better all season long."
Chipola opened the day with a 106-69 whipping of Coastal Alabama North, a 26 point showing from Keishawn Brewton more than enough to lead the Indians to another win.
If there was any dust to brush off following a ten day holiday layoff, the Indians certainly didn't show it.
"I was kind of surprised," head coach Brendan Foley said. "Guys were in pretty good shape. A little bit of rust in our first game back with some turnovers and stuff, but I was pleased with where we're at in practice the last couple days and I thought we kind of picked up right where we left off."
Northwest Florida rolled to a 103-82 victory over East Georgia State, with seven players scoring in double figures.
The Raiders were preseason No. 1 and enter the classic with a third-place ranking nationally and only one loss. Although games aren't won in the polls, the team is living up to expectations set by them.
"I think the standard has been set for the last five to six years and even before that," head coach Steve DeMeo said. "The team has always been number one, two three, top ten, but I think over the last four years we've been preseason number one every year, so I think they guys come in and expect to play at a high standard and be really good. You've got to play that way every single day. You've got to practice that way. You've got to conduct yourself that way. I'm proud of the way our guys have handled the pressure."
The classic wraps up with another triple-header on New Year's Eve.
12 p.m. Chipola vs. Gordon State
2 p.m. Northwest Florida vs. Coastal Alabama
4 p.m. Gulf Coast vs. East Georgia State