MARIANNA, FL 3/8/2012 --
Marianna is the center of the junior college sports universe this week, as Chipola College hosts the annual men's and women's state basketball tournament. The event not only showcases some of the top basketball players in the state, it also means big business for Jackson County.
Florida's sixteen best junior college basketball teams are at Chipola College this week for the 2012 J.U.C.O. basketball state championship.
"Every team here has a chance to win this tournament," said Chipola College Athletic Director Dale O'Daniel.
O'Daniel said it's an exciting time for the college.
"It's a big deal in town, where if we were in a big metropolitan area, it wouldn't be that big, it'd just be some other something that's going on. Here it's the thing that's going on," said O'Daniel.
But it's not just the players hoping for a slam dunk. Area businesses, like the Microtel Inn and Suites are also getting in on the action.
"We love 'March madness' and everything that it brings to the community," said Microtel General Manager Lisa Goff.
Goff said they're at capacity for the first time this year.
"Everything that the teams bring in, it helps a lot," said Goff.
The tournament is a success so much so that Jackson County Chamber of Commerce President Art Kimbrough called it Marianna's version of spring break.
"You can feel the difference when you're in the restaurants and you're in the motels with the property owners and with the restaurant owners. The business is there, the energy, the excitement," said Kimbrough.
Chipola College has hosted the state tournament for the past sixteen years. With one more year left on the contract, O'Daniel said he thinks the school will probably submit a new bid in 2014.