Chipley and Blountstown ready for 1A semifinal showdown

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LAKELAND, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - We are inching closer and closer from Blountstown and Chipley tipping off in the 1A State Semifinals.

Coach Brent Zessin and his Blountstown Tigers stopped in Gainesville on Sunday at 3 for a quick shoot around.

Coach Zessin says he's had his guys practice on different courts like Florida, Gulf Coast, and Chipola's so they can shoot and acclimate themselves to different surroundings.

This is the first time the Blountstown basketball programs made it to the final four since the mid 80's. So even though this is uncharted territory for this Blountstown, coach says the game plan and focus remains the same.

"Every game you should play hard. Our motto is play hard, try to play defense, try to hold your opponent to under 50 points, or if we can hold them under 40, that's great," Zessin said. "Our philosophy is if they can't score, they can't win. We'll just do our game and push the ball down the floor in transition and hope that we're able to score more points than they do."

As for coach Mike Gates and his Chipley Tigers, they had the day off. This is a team that went from not winning one game this summer at FSU's camp, to a team that completed a 4-1 district record and earning a berth to the 1A state semifinals, despite doubt from others in the community.

When Gates asked how his players were feeling after the team dinner, he says he'll never forget what one of his players came up and said to him: "coach, my dream has been made."

"It just made me feel so good when he said that," Gates said. "They are writing their own history right now. For a team to get down here that wasn't expected to be here...my guards have got to be able to handle the ball and not turn the ball over. We've got to box out and knock down a few shots. Hopefully we can be able to withstand Blountstown and have a chance at the end."

The 1A state semifinal game between Chipley and Blountstown tips off at 9 central Monday morning.