The Chipley Tigers got past the Franklin County Seahawks at The Nest Tuesday night, to earn a berth in the Class 1A Final Four in Lakeland.
But it wasn’t without a fight, in their 57-50 victory.
After opening the game with a pair of treys, the Tigers, who had downed Port St. Joe to advance, was ahead by just two, 20-18, at the half, and by four, 33-29, after three quarters, 33-29.
To lead off the fourth, though, the Tigers reeled off four unanswered buckets, two off takeaways by junior guard Kelvin Dean, and they kept that breathing room the rest of the way to a regional championship.
“Two turnovers at the top of the key, they took the ball right out of our hands. We had only 11 turnovers but we just had too many at the wrong time, that hurt us there,” said Franklin County first-year head coach Nathan West.
Even without their leading scorer, freshman Lamarius Martin, who missed the post-season due to wrist surgery, West’s 13-17 team knocked off Baker Feb. 22 in the regional semis to earn a shot at Chipley, which had fallen by 25 points to Baker in the District 3 final.
“We didn’t take care of the ball down the stretch,” said West. “If we did that right there, it would be a different ballgame.”
With five minutes left to play, the Seahawks started fouling, and the Tigers sank just nine of 21 down the stretch to give Franklin County an outside chance at victory. With 19 seconds left, Seahawk junior guard Daijon Penamon, who led all scorers with 22 points, nailed a trey to cut the margin to 52-49.
“We missed a lot of free throws tonight but we made up for them at the defensive end,” said Tigers coach Mike Gates, who went with a pesky man-to-man that kept the Seahawks off-balance most of the game.
“We played hard defense, they go after it,” he said. Gates’ team now faces Blountstown in the state semifinals Monday. Blountstown punched their ticket to Lakeland with a 61-57 win over Bethlehem Tuesday night in Bonifay.
Senior point guard P. J. Spencer, who led the Tigers with 21 points, sank a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left. That was followed by senior forward Dominic Bouton, who ended the night with 14 points, made both of his, and senior center Brian Williams one of his two, to ice the game.
In all, he Tigers went 14 of 28 from the charity stripe.
The Seahawks were 9 of 13 from the free throw line, and pulled down 26 rebounds, but only four were offensive.
“They probably had 11 or 12, that’s not good there,” said West. “They got a lot second chance opportunities that hurt us down the stretch.”
“That’s just an effort thing,” he said. “They just outworked us, outefforted us on the glass there.”
Sophomore Ayden Pearson added 11 points. As a team the Seahawks shot 5 of 17 from the three-point line.
Townsend's free throws help down Baker
Junior Rufus Townsend's two free throws in the last second of the game capped a furious fourth-quarter comeback as the Seahawks won their Class 1A regional opener 54-53 at Baker Feb. 22.
After trailing 27-18 at the half, and 41-32 after three, the Seahawks outscored the Gators 22-12 in the final quarter.
With 26 seconds left, and Baker leading by two, the Seahawks clamped down a full court press and forced a turnover. West called a timeout, and turned to junior Arik Sowell, who had sunk four treys so far in the game, to take the shot.
Sowell nailed the three-pointer, to give the Hawks the one-point lead, but Baker grabbed it back by scoring with five seconds left.
The Seahawks inbounded the ball, and before he crossed the mid court line, Townsend was fouled, with three-tenths of a second left to play.
Townsend, who is not one of the team's finest shooters from the charity stripe, sank both free throws, and the Seahawks got the win in the regional opener.