Central Florida advanced in the state tournament and healed years of frustration Wednesday night with a 52-49 win over Chipola in the quarterfinal round of the FCSAA State Tournament.
Sophomore Christian Martinez's 4-point play with 10.5 seconds remaining put an end to a rugged, physical game, shocking the Indians on their Marianna home court and sending CF to the state semifinals for the second straight year.
The Patriots (24-7) will play Palm Beach in a state semifinal game Friday at 7 p.m. EST.In a preview of the heroics to follow, Martinez opened the scoring with a leaning 3-pointer while falling out of bounds on the right sideline. A fierce CF defense followed up immediately, forcing a 5-second violation on the ensuing Chipola inbound attempt. The Patriots defense held the Indians scoreless through the first 2:47 of the game, and without a field goal until the 15:33 mark.
Neither team was able to gain any separation over the ensuing minutes in a ragged, low-scoring game marked by deflections and scrums for loose balls. CF led 10-8 when the first-half media timeout stopped play with 9:43 remaining.
Martinez finally jolted the game out of its slumber with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, the latter giving CF a 23-15 lead with 2:54 to play. The spurt provoked Chipola into a rally of its own, producing a 23-23 deadlock at intermission.
The teams resumed the slugfest after halftime, with neither side managing even a two-possession cushion until Chipola's 47-42 lead with 3:05 to play. Martinez again had the response, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key to pull back within 2 points. Eugene McCrory stepped in front of a driving opponent on the subsequent possession, drawing an offensive foul and giving the Patriots the ball back with 2:22 remaining. Hunter Williams took the opportunity to put CF back in the lead with his own 3-pointer.
Chipola quickly dropped in a basket to retake the 1-point lead, and a CF turnover gave the Indians possession with 1:05 to play.
CF got the stop and took the ball over with 30 seconds to play, launching straight into its offensive set without a timeout. Probing the baseline, Martinez curled off screens by Jordan Parks and Williams and took a pass in rhythm from Luis Jacobo several feet beyond the 3-point line, deftly turning and hitting an off-balance 3-pointer over two Chipola defenders and drawing a foul with 10.5 seconds to play. His free throw put the Patriots up 52-49, the eventual final margin.
A Patriot defense that swarmed all night then came through with one last lockdown possession, forcing the Indians into a desperate corner 3-pointer that failed to draw rim.
Martinez led all scorers with 21 points, including a 6-for-9 effort from long range. McCrory joined him in double figures with 10 points and added a game-high 6 rebounds.
CF also got the upper hand in a battle of two ferocious defenses. The Patriots held Chipola to a 16-for-61, 26 percent shooting effort on the game, and pestered its shooters into a 2-for-11 night from 3-point range.
The victory put an end to the years of torment CF has suffered at the hands of the Panhandle Conference in general and Chipola specifically. This year represents the Patriots' seventh consecutive trip to the state tournament; a Panhandle team has eliminated them in each of the previous six. Chipola ended CF's season three consecutive years from 2006-07 to 2008-09, including in the 2007 state championship game.
To boot, the Indians handled CF 80-60 in the team's regular-season meeting at Marianna in December.