MALONE — It wasn’t the greatest basketball victory in school history at title-rich Malone, but there’s no mistaking it sent a message to the rest of Class 1A.
Malone surged past defending state champion Chipley 61-50 on Tuesday behind Chai Baker’s 29 points in their Region 1-1A semifinal. It was Malone’s second win over Chipley this season and reinforced the notion that it’s one of the favorites to win the 1A crown.
Tuesday simply was another step in potentially winning championship No. 14 at the school and the first since 1998. While there have been bigger wins, obviously, the importance of the outcome couldn’t be discounted.
It helped Malone (24-3) avenge last season’s regional final loss to Chipley (22-6) and provided momentum heading into Saturday’s encounter with Chris Walker and Holmes County in Bonifay.
Malone used a 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter to secure the victory. Malone’s defense held Chipley without a basket through six minutes, finally clamping down on Trent Forrest, who led all scorers with 31 points.
“I think a lot of it was fatigue setting in, he had the ball in his hand all night,” Malone coach Steve Welch said. “We ran several guys at him and he had to work for every basket.”
Forrest scored 20 points in the middle quarters to help Chipley stay close. However, his cold streak through much of the fourth carried over to the team.
“You have to give Malone credit, they handled their composure,” Chipley coach Joel Orlando said. “They had too many weapons on both ends.”
Malone led 26-25 at halftime despite sluggish starts in the first two quarters. Malone couldn’t convert on its first five possessions of the game until 3-pointers by Ty Baker and Antwain Johnson staked it to a 6-4 lead.
The teams combined for 18 points the rest of the quarter with Malone moving out to its largest lead at the time, 16-12. Malone couldn’t extend the advantage when it missed five of six shots to start the second quarter.
Chipley regained the lead, 19-18 with 4:30 to play in the half on a free throw by Forrest. The freshman scored 10 points in the second quarter and helped Chipley rally to within 26-25 at halftime.
The matchup mirrored last year’s meeting when Malone went into halftime with momentum it couldn’t harness during the final two quarters. Welch said the key this time was to limit Chipley’s opportunities.
“They had the mental edge, they beat us last year at our place,” Welch said. “It was huge to stay focused and I thought we played a lot better in the second half.”
Chai Baker helped turn a two-point third-quarter lead into a 48-36 advantage before a Forrest free throw ended the run with 3:57 to play. Forrest scored his final five points on back-to-back possessions late in the fourth quarter, but by then Malone had its biggest lead of 16.
Ty Baker added 17 points for Malone, which played Holmes County in the tip-off classic long before both teams found their respective identities. Saturday’s game starts at 7 p.m.
- CHIPLEY (50)
- Sharpe 2 3-4 7, Forrest 12 6-11 31, McCrary 3 0-0 6, Justice 2 0-0 5, Holmes 0 1-2 1. Totals: 19 10-17 50.
- MALONE (61)
- Williams 2 2-2 6, CBaker 8 8-9 29, TBaker 7 1-2 17, AJohnson 1 0-0 3, Speights 3 1-2 6. Totals: 21 13-18 61.
- Chipley 12 13 11 14 — 50
- Malone 16 10 12 23 — 61
- 3-point field goals: Chipley 2 (Forrest, Justice), Malone 7 (CBaker 4, TBaker 2, AJohnson). Team fouls: Chipley 16, Malone 15. Fouled out: None.