By NWF DAILY NEWS
NICEVILLE — It's been a good week for the NWF State basketball programs.
After the men (23-2, 9-0) secured a fifth straight Panhandle Conference crown, the NWF State women moved into sole possession of the Panhandle and Region 8 top spots.
Bart Walker's crew (21-2, 7-2) beat Tallahassee on Wednesday and Pensacola State on Saturday to move a game up on Gulf Coast State (18-4, 6-3), which lost 89-83 to Tallahassee over the weekend. Now the Raiders, jumping two spots in the national ranks to No. 5, lead Chipola (20-4, 5-3) by 2 1/2 games, Tallahassee (22-5, 4-5) by three games and Pensacola State (14-11, 0-9) by seven games.
While it still remains a four-team race, NWF State's 5:30 p.m. tipoff in Panama City tonight could all but seal a Panhandle crown for the Raiders. They split the first two matchups with the Commodores, each winning on the road.
The Raiders then host Chipola on Saturday before traveling to Tallahassee next Wednesday.
While the men have shored up their place to defend the Region 8 title — 3 1/2 games up on Chipola (22-4, 5-3), four games ahead on Tallahassee (21-5, 5-4), seven games up on Pensacola State (14-12, 2-7) and eight games ahead of Gulf Coast State 13-13, 1-8) — Steve DeMeo's crew is still working hard to bolster its national tournament résumé.
The Raiders remain No. 4 in the nation behind Coffeyville (24-2), Vincennes (23-1) and top-ranked Florida Southwestern (25-1), the same order for the past three weeks. DeMeo's crew travels to Panama City tonight for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff before hosting Chipola on Saturday and traveling to Tallahassee next Wednesday.