CHIPLEY — If Chipley’s victory over West Gadsden could be summarized in two words, they would be preparation and composure.
The Tigers shrugged off West Gadsden’s concerted efforts to create a chaotic environment on the basketball court Friday night and pulled away for a 73-53 victory in the Region 2-1A finals.
Chipley will play Hamilton County, a 79-69 winner over Hawthorne on Friday night, in the Class 1A state semifinals on Wednesday at The Lakeland Center. The game tips off at 11 a.m. CST.
Chipley, 22-2, and West Gadsden,19-4, operated at a frenetic pace early on, but the Tigers assumed control with six straight points to close the first quarter and another 12 points to start the second.
Trent Forrest capped the run with a 3-pointer to put Chipley on top 30-14 four minutes before halftime.
Chipley remained composed in the face of the Panthers’ full-court press and halfcourt traps, and the Tigers maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the game. Chipley ultimately led by as many as 22 points and held a comfortable 60-38 cushion going into the final quarter.
Chipley’s Tyrome Sharpe, who scored 18 points to complement Forrest’s game-high 24, said coach Joel Orlando had the Tigers ready to counter the Panthers’ aggressive defense.
“Coach talked about them at practice and he said it was going to be like that,” Sharpe said. “He let us go at it. Coach had the whistle. There were no fouls. None.”
West Gadsden ran into foul trouble early and had difficulty keeping Chipley corralled. The Panthers clawed within 60-46 in the fourth quarter, but West Gadsden coach Andrew Moten was assessed with a technical foul with 5½ minutes left. Sharpe made both free throws to push the lead back to 16 and ultimately put the outcome out of reach.
Lajarous Davis and Archie Albritton scored 12 points apiece for the Panthers.
Adrian Sims, a Chipley freshman who scored 10 points, echoed Sharpe’s thoughts that the practice leading up to the game was crucial. Now the Tigers are returning to state in the hunt for their second state championship in three years.
“We played with heart,” Sims said.
Logan Justice is a senior who is one of only two holdovers — Sharpe is the other — from the team that collected a state title in 2012. Justice said the Tigers have played with “a target on our back” and have work ahead of them to bring home a state championship next week.
“We can’t go down there big-headed,” Justice said. “We have to feel like everyone is at our level and our competition.”
WEST GADSDEN (53)
Davis 12, Albritton 12, Brown 7, Sweet 8, Bradwell 6, Kenon 3, Gibson 4, Johnson 1.
Forrest 24, Sims 10, Z. Campbell 8, J. Campbell 6, Sharpe 18, Justice 4, Floyd 1, S. Swint 2.
West Gadsden 14 10 14 15 — 53
Chipley 18 22 20 13 — 73