By SAM GRUBENHOFF
NICEVILLE — The immediate future looks bright inside Raider Arena.
With one semester coming to a close and another on the horizon after a short break, Northwest Florida State finds itself with both basketball programs ranked inside the top 5.
Coach Steve DeMeo's men's team remains the top squad in junior college basketball, according to the NJCAA polls released Tuesday. The Raider men completed a weekend sweep, beating Daytona State College and Indian River State College on Saturday and Sunday.
Coach Bart Walker and the women's team moved up a spot to No. 5 after finishing the first half of their season with an 89-22 victory against ASA College (Miami) on Tuesday.
Both teams remain undefeated with the men sitting at 14-0 and then women at 12-0.
DeMeo laughed when he said he was glad his team hadn't moved anywhere.
"You don't want any movement when you're No. 1," DeMeo said. "I think we're happy where we're at. We finished this semester on the right foot. Now all of our guys are going home for a couple weeks, and our challenge is to make sure they come back in decent shape."
The men and women leave Niceville for the holiday break on solid footing.
Derek Funderburk scored a game-high 20 points and drained nine of his 14 free throws Saturday. The Raiders outrebounded the Falcons 46-27 behind solid efforts from Ludgy Debaut (nine rebounds), Kelvin Robinson (seven rebounds) and Chris Duarte (seven rebounds).
"I'm really excited with this group of guys," DeMeo said. "I think from 1-12 we have guys who can play the game and help us win. I've never really felt that way before. Even in our national championship year, the bottom guys, I didn't trust 'em as much as the guys I have on my roster now."
ASA College never stood a chance in Tuesday's women's victory. The Raiders outscored the Silver Storm 34-6 in the opening frame and never looked back. Trinity Baptiste led all scorers with 22 points and added nine rebounds. The Raiders outrebounded ASA College 43-13.
"I'm pleased with where we are, especially in our first year," Walker said. "I feel like when we took the job in May, we were very apprehensive about what type of team we could get in the short amount of time with a lot of recruits already committed to several people in our league. We feel like we're in a good spot."
Both coaches agreed the coming multiweek break has advantages and disadvantages for teams that are playing so well. Walker and DeMeo's teams have to walk the fine line between rest and indolence.
The men are off until they return to action against Gordon State College at 2 p.m. Dec. 29 at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City.
The women resume play against Chattahoochee Valley Community College at noon Dec. 28 in Tallahassee.
"I think it's a good thing for us," DeMeo said of the break. "Our guys usually come back rejuvenated. We've usually played pretty good when we get back."