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In the old Spike Lee Air Jordan commercials, Mars Blackmon used to ask Michael Jordan, “Money - hey Money! Is it the shoes?”
On seeing the Indians in their new clothes Friday, hammering a 63-44 win over district and area rival Dixie County, Mars might ask a similar question.
Answer – it wasn't. It was all Chiefland.
“Our kids executed for me, both on offense and defense,” said Chiefland Head Coach Mark Lundy.
“This is the kind of performance I hope can propel us into districts.”
Chiefland defeated Dixie County in front of a packed house Friday, playing one of their best games of the year. The home team took the floor to screams of delight, sporting their brand new uniforms and high-stepping through their layup line. Although the Bears took a brief opening advantage, attentive defense and consistent rebounding kept Chiefland neck and neck with Dixie until an opportunity came to make adjustments.
Eugene Carter and Cantrell Richardson led the Indians with 15 and 14 points, respectively, but the win was an all-around effort that included dynamite rebounding and defense from Tommy Sheffield, Stephen Davis and Donnell Sanders. Good ball movement and shot selection by the whole team helped Chiefland prevail.
Dixie kept tying the score in the first quarter, mostly on the shooting of Rodney Scott and Tevin Henderson, who had all but two of the Bears' first quarter points. It wasn't until the second quarter, and increased defensive pressure, that the Indians were able to break up Dixie's offense and keep the ball away from Scott and Henderson. Carter stepped up scoring for Chiefland, getting a three and a pair at the line, and Richardson also chipped in two buckets, but the key was forcing the ball into the hands of Dixie's less comfortable shooters. At the half, the Indians led 28-24.
After their dominant first quarter, Henderson and Scott were never again so strong. Each had a bucket in the third, but Chiefland's defense largely took away the lane. In front of the surging crowds, Richardson blocked a Dixie shot and made the Chiefland fans scream. The Bears weren't strong shooters from outside, and superior rebounding let Chiefland take away any second chances Dixie bombers might get. At the other end, Richardson and Carter continued to hammer the rack and go to the line. After three quarters, the Indians had finally opened up a nine-point gap, leading their nemesis 40-31.
Chiefland's inside work began to pay off in the fourth quarter. Henderson and Steve Godbolt fouled out, making the path to the basket a little smoother. Josh Wasson had a big three from the top of the key to open the lead to 13. With 4:58 left in the game, a fight broke out in the stands behind the Chiefland bench, driving the players onto the court, but the teams and fans remained orderly as the disturbance was cleared outside. When play resumed, the Indians' flow was undisrupted and first Davis, then Reggie McClendon, then Richardson went to the line, successfully. Fourteen of Chiefland's 23 fourth-quarter points came from the line as the Indians kept attacking. With seven seconds left and the game in the bag, the fans stormed the court and the players were sent to the locker rooms, already celebrating as the clock ran down.
“This is a quality win for us,” said Lundy.
“Dixie County is very well coached.”
Lundy, a graduate of Dixie County High School, said he was torn and delighted in the rivalry.
“I always want both programs to do well,” he said.
Following Wednesday's pep rally, Chiefland fans really turned up the intensity for their team, Lundy added.
“The students were very supportive – that's the kind of kids we have at Chiefland, and I hope they enjoyed the win also.”