By JASON SHOOT
747-5069 | @PCNHJasonShoot
LAKELAND — A lot of ‘what-ifs’ will be circulating around Chipley today.
A day after three players were suspended for a violation of team rules, the Chipley boys basketball team was blown out by Hamilton County in an 85-48 loss in the Class 1A state semifinals at The Lakeland Center on Wednesday.
The Tigers, who had ambitions of winning a second state championship in a three-year span, finished the season 22-3. Hamilton County (21-8) will face Malone in the state title game today at 11:05 a.m. CST.
The suspension of three players, including leading scorer Trent Forrest, handcuffed the Tigers against a very good Hamilton County squad that dominated the contest from start to finish. Chipley missed 12 of 14 shots in the first quarter, and the Trojans ended the period on a 17-1 run to take a 21-6 lead into the second quarter.
Back-to-back buckets by Daniel Floyd pulled the Tigers within 24-14 midway through the second quarter, but that was as close as Chipley would get the rest of the way. Hamilton County led 43-23 at halftime and was not threatened in the second half. The final score was the biggest margin of the game.
Hamilton County’s Kevin McClain led all scorers with 24 points, and Antefernee Smith contributed with 15. The Trojans’ bench was considerably stronger than that of the Tigers and outscored Chipley’s reserves 53-3. Hamilton County also enjoyed a 59-35 edge on the boards.
“They were very athletic and extremely quick,” Chipley coach Joel Orlando said. “They were very deep and have a solid point guard and 2-guard who is strong as a bull and plays above the rim.”
Tyrome Sharpe led Chipley with 17 points, but he was held to 6-for-20 shooting from the floor with limited help around him. Sharpe also picked up his third foul with 5 minutes left in the second quarter, further limiting him on the offensive end.
Floyd and Adrian Sims scored nine points apiece and combined for 13 rebounds for Chipley, and Justin Campbell added eight points and six rebounds.
“They played to the best of their ability, and I’m extremely proud of the how they handled it and the way they handled it,” Orlando said of some of his players being thrust into a more pronounced role. “It was just a challenge of being put in a situation where they had to do some things they weren’t comfortable with execution-wise.”
Forrest, a sophomore who averaged 24 points a game this year and already is on the recruiting radar of numerous college programs, was suspended along with teammates Bradley Hall and Sagar Patel. Hall is a junior, and Patel is a senior.
Orlando did not specify what violations were committed in his post-game press conference, saying: “We have set travel rules, and those were violated. If we had been fortunate enough to play in the next game, they would not have been able to play.”
An online post attributed to Forrest’s Twitter account (@TForrest_11) on Wednesday afternoon said, “This crazy (sic). Just live, learn, and keep it moving.”
Orlando noted that the team will return four of five starters next year, and he hopes the Tigers can gear up for another postseason push in 2015.
“Hopefully we have a group that’s motivated and this experience will give them motivation to want to return” to state, he said.
HAMILTON COUNTY (85) — Whetstone 4 0-2 8, Washington 0 0-0 0, Smith 7 1-2 15, Lee 3 0-0 8, Milton 1 0-0 2, Walker 1 0-0 2, McClain 10 3-3 24, Cooks 4 1-4 9, Palmer 0 0-0 0, Nixon 0 0-0 0, Williams 4 0-0 9, Keel 2 0-0 4, Wallace 0 0-0 0, Gandy 2 0-0 4. Totals 38 5-11 85.
CHIPLEY (48) — Sims 3 1-2 9, Campbell 0 0-0 0, S. Swint 0 0-0 0, Floyd 3 3-4 9, Bryant 0 0-0 0, Justice 1 0-1 2, M. Swint 0 0-0 0, Campbell 4 0-0 8, Sharpe 6 4-8 17, Holmes 1 0-2 3. Totals 18 8-17 48.
Hamilton County 21 22 25 17 — 85
Chipley 6 17 15 20 — 48
Three-point goals: HC 4 Lee 2, McClain, Williams), Chip 4 (Sims 2, Sharpe, Holmes). Rebounds: HC 59 (Whetstone 7, Lee 7, McClain 7), Chip 35 (Sims 7). Total fouls: HC 17, Chip 13. Fouled out: None.