MARIANNA, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Before the season even begins, the Chipola women's basketball team had a few goals.
One of them was schedule more home games. The other was simple to say but hard to do: win more games.
Both of those goals are being achieved.
By winning twice last weekend at the Milton Johnson Center, the Lady Indians have already equaled last year's win total, of to a 14-0 start with only three games decided by less than twenty points.
They'll have more chances to win in front of the home fans Saturday, hosting East Mississippi in the Chipola Classic.
Valerie Nesbitt, Courtajia Sanders and Dekeriya Patterson are averaging double figures scoring, a pleasing but unsurprising fact to the coaching staff.
"Val is a returner. She knows the system," head coach Greg Franklin said. "Actually, she's gone from scoring I think eight or nine points a game to scoring about 17. Tay Tay went from scoring about 11 or 12 to scoring about 19, and I think that's jut being a sophomore--being a talented sophomore. Dee Patterson, she's had a lot of experience at this level or higher. She's really kind of meshed in with the old regime, I guess you would say."
As good as that trio has been, Chipola's offensive success stems largely from improvements on defense.
"We are evolving as a basketball team," Franklin added. "We kind of make defense our benchmark, our staple. We keep that standard pretty high. I think we score a lot of points off our defense. That's the blessing so far we have."
The Lady Indians are averaging nearly 15 steals per game, holding opponents to just 36 percent shooting.
NJCAA Top 25 voters are making note.
The Indians are ranked fifth in the nation in the second regular season poll released Monday. If these rankings are any indication, Panhandle Conference play will be like a round robin national tournament.
Four of the top ten teams hail from the Panhandle. Northwest Florida is first, with defending national champ Tallahassee third. Gulf Coast rounds out the top 10, with even Pensacola receiving votes.
The men are holding up pretty well so far under first year head coach Brendan Foley, 11-1 and ranked 20th in the nation. Other Panhandle teams in the rankings include Northwest Florida at No. 4 and Tallahassee at No. 5.
The Chipola Classic features three games Friday and three Saturday.
1 p.m. South Georgia Tech vs. East Mississippi (women)
3 p.m. Gulf Coast vs. South Georgia Tech (Men)
5 p.m. Chipola vs. Southern union (men)
1 p.m. Gulf Coast vs. Southern union (men)
3 p.m. Chipola vs. East Mississippi (women)
5 p.m. Chipola vs. South Georgia Tech (men)