By: Rolando Rosa - JCFloridan.com
A historic double-double by forward Evelyn Akhator lifted the Chipola Lady Indians to its third straight state title game.
Akhator scored 23 points and broke Yolanda Griffith's 1990 state tourney record with 24 rebounds in the Lady Indians 66-53 victory over No.15 state ranked College of Central Florida in the semifinals of the FCSAA Women's Basketball Championship on Friday from Ocala.
"Evelyn is creeping up on the national record for rebounding," Chipola coach Greg Franklin said in a press release regarding Akhator, the nation's leading rebounder this season. "She's a joy to coach."
No.1 state ranked and No.2 nationally ranked Chipola (29-1) will play No.2 state ranked and No.3 nationally ranked Northwest Florida State on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Lady Raiders handed Chipola its lone loss of the season on Jan. 17. However, the Lady Indians exacted revenge on Jan. 31 and Feb. 21 in the season finale.
The Lady Patriots cut the deficit to seven with 1:50 remaining on a jumper by center/forward Thais Oliveira, who finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. But Chipola closed the game on a 7-1 run, going 7-of-10 from the foul line down the stretch.
"We were in a little bit of a lull, but we got it together in the second half," Franklin said. "My hat's off to Central Florida. They gave us a heck of a game."
Chipola led by just two at the halftime but went on a 16-4 burst to begin the second half. Akhator kicked off the sequence with a steal and fast break layup. Guard Janisha Lindsey's coast-to-coast layup and subsequent 3-pointer by Key put Chipola ahead 34-24 with 15:35 remaining.
Akhator grabbed two offensive rebounds and finished the possession with a layup at the 14:40 mark to get the lead back up to 10. Akhator then fed a cutting Rosemarie Julien for an and-1 layup conversion, giving the Lady Indians a 39-26 advantage.
College of Central Florida missed its first eight shots en route to Chipola jumping out to a 11-2 lead. The Patriots responded with a 12-2 rally—all on points by Oliveira- to tie the game at 18 with 5:36 to go in the first half.
Chipola went on an eight minute scoring drought until a layup by Gilmore tied the score at 20 with three minutes until halftime. The Lady Indians took the lead at halftime on a layup and a pair of free throws by Akhator to close out the first half.
The Lady Indians won despite shooting 4-of-19 from the 3-point line and 35 percent overall. Chipola compensated by playing stingy defense, holding College of Central Florida to 32.3 percent from the floor.