The Patriots received and handled the first of what promises to be three significant tests on their three-day visit to Marianna, defeating Miami-Dade 70-66 on Thursday to open the Panhandle Classic with a win and improve to 8-1.
CF sophomore point guard Travis Johnson hit four free throws in the final minute to finally put away an unranked but persistent Sharks team. Ricardo Ratliffe and Rahshon Tabb each turned in double-doubles in points and rebounds, Ratliffe with 23 and 14 and Tabb with 19 and 11. Josh Proctor added 12 points and 6 boards for the good guys.
The Patriots (NJCAA No. 5/FCCAA No. 1) face Northwest Florida State (NJCAA No. 19/FCCAA No. 2) on Friday, then conclude the tournament against host school Chipola (NJCAA No. 10, FCCAA No. 3) on Saturday. Those two happen to be the other nationally-ranked teams in the state, and along with CF form the state's top three. Non-conference games don't get more significant than these.