LAKELAND — Chipley’s Rakeia Sorey staying on the bench for much of the fourth quarter with foul trouble wasn’t the deciding factor in Wednesday’s Class 1A state title game loss to South Walton. It was one of many.
Poor shooting, a lack of making good on second-chance opportunities, a wide disparity in fouls and a pair of surging South Walton scorers in the second half helped the Seahawks pull away for a 58-49 victory at The Lakeland Center. It was the first state championship for South Walton (23-6). Chipley finished the season 23-5 in its first appearance in a state title game and second trip to the Final Four.
Sorey recorded her fourth foul on a Katie Logan shot with one second to play in the third quarter. Logan missed both attempts and Chipley led 39-35. Sorey, however, was relegated to the bench after scoring 14 points through three quarters and South Walton capitalized without the senior on the floor.
“She definitely had a passion for us on defense and without her in it brought the level of intensity down,” Chipley coach Heather Hingson said. “She played really hard for us on defense.”
Casey Perot moved the Seahawks within two early in the fourth quarter. Mackenzie Perot scored a possession later to provide the first tie of the game. Casey Perot then gave South Walton its first lead, 41-39, a minute into the fourth.
South Walton went on a 9-0 run to open the fourth quarter to turn a four-point deficit into a 44-39 lead with 4:40 showing on the clock. Casey Perot scored all 13 of her points in the second half. Eve Heffron added 10 points, also notching all her points in the final 16 minutes.
Sorey returned to the game with 4:48 to play, but fouled out with less than a minute to go while the Tigers tried to stop the clock. That measure proved difficult as well with South Walton able to milk the time from 1:40 to 1:04 before a foul. Chipley trailed 51-45 at that point and couldn’t pull any closer.
Chipley led 25-23 at halftime despite shooting 30 percent. South Walton shot at a 42 percent clip, but warmed in the second half. The Seahawks, led by Casey Perot and Heffron, were 11 for 18 in the second half (61 percent) while Chipley improved marginally to 34 percent.
The Tigers won along the boards with 38 rebounds, including 26 on the offensive glass. However, Chipley couldn’t convert enough to increase its lead, which it held for three quarters, and failed to draw fouls under the basket.
South Walton committed just nine fouls to 23 for Chipley and the Tigers attempted only seven free throws. The Seahawks attempted 33 free throws and made 20 with the considerable difference playing a role in the outcome.
“We just fouled them a lot and they definitely made a lot of shots,” Hingson said. “I think they were able to penetrate better. In the end their guards waned it and they took it to us and put on a lot of pressure.”
Chipley led by as many as eight late in the third quarter after three consecutive charging calls on South Walton, but the Seahawks took control with a 15-2 run that included the hot start in the fourth quarter.
Jasmine Belser scored 14 and Ebony Williams 10 for Chipley. Williams missed her first nine shots, but went 4 for 5 after the dry spell.
Mackenzie Perot scored 12 and Tayler Menard eight for South Walton. Seven Seahawks scored in a balanced attack with six of those with five or more points.
Chipley came up short in its first trip to the state semifinal since 2005, when Rickey McCullough was head coach. That was the fourth in an eight-year run of regional appearances. This season marked the first time Chipley advanced past the district stage since 2009.
“We had a good run and it wasn’t what we hoped for or expected,” Hingson said. “But I’m still very proud of them.”
Blair 1 0-0 2, Sorey 5 0-0 14, Pooser 0 0-0 0, Paschal 1 0-0 2, Lovett 0 0-0 0, Belser 7 0-3 14, Williams 5 0-0 10, Coleman 2 3-4 7, Lee 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 3-7 49.
SOUTH WALTON (58)
Heffron 2 6-7 10, Logan 1 2-4 4, Menard 3 2-5 8, Kennedy 1 3-6 5, MPerot 5 2-4 12, Trejo 2 2-3 6, CPerot 5 3-4 13. Totals: 19 20-33 58.
Chipley 12 13 14 10 — 49
South Walton 7 16 12 23 — 58
3-point field goals: CHS 4 (Sorey 4). Rebounds: CHS 38 (Coleman 10), SWHS 32 (CPerot 7). Turnovers: CHS 20, SWHS 22. Team fouls: CHS 23, SWHS 9. Fouled out: CHS (Sorey).