For the fifth consecutive year, there will be a new boys basketball state champion in Class 1A.
But on Friday night at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, there could be a first-time state champion.
On Wednesday night, top seed Williston knocked off No. 4 seed Franklin County, 54-37, to advance to its first state title game appearance in program history.
The Red Devils (24-7) will play No. 3 seed Chipley at 7 p.m. with a chance to win their first state title in program history. The game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” and online (audio only) at IamCountryRadio.com.
“To start with, probably the most important thing is what these kids have put in, the time they’ve put in, the effort, but if we can bring a state title to Williston it would just be outstanding for our community, for our program,” said Williston coach Jim Ervin. “Just to get to the final game is an accomplishment at this point. Obviously, we want to win it, but getting there is an accomplishment.”
Despite only three points from leading scorer Greg Maxwell on Wednesday, three players scored in double figures, led by junior Quincy Parker with 13 points.
Junior Kyler Lamb scored seven points in the opening quarter as the Red Devils took a 7-6 lead, which they would never relinquish.
The 6’6 Lamb, who averages 13.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds.
“Kyler’s just an exceptional player,” Ervin said. “We set a lot of sets early for him because of his length and what he brings us and he got us going early. He can shoot the ball and can finish around the hoop normally but (Wednesday) he struggled. But he’s a junior with one year of varsity experience. He was injured most of his freshman year. He’s a kid that really shines once the lights come on.”
While Williston has two players in its starting lineup who are 6’6, the tallest player in Chipley’s starting five is just 6’2.
However, those two players, Auburn football commit Daquayvious Sorey and senior center Antonio Lewis, combined for 18 points and 16 rebounds in a 49-46 win against Hawthorne in the other state semifinal.
Meanwhile, 6’1 junior point guard Kyler Bryant led the Tigers (21-6) with 20 points.
“Our length will bother them,” Ervin said. “But Chipley’s pretty athletic. You just go play basketball at this point.”
Chipley is seeking its first state championship since winning back-to-back Class 1A titles in 2015 and 2016.
On Wednesday night following the win against the Seahawks, Ervin was asked who he preferred to play for the state title.
“I just want to play the best team out there,” he said. “A perfect world would have been Wildwood again because Wildwood and us were the one and two going into the regional finals and I still feel we may be the best two teams in the state.”
Williston had to beat Wildwood three times this season to prove they were the best.
It will only take one win against Chipley to do so.