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Chesapeake Panthers headed to state tourney

Chesapeake High School celebrated its basketball teams’ regional championship victory with a pep rally Wednesday and cheered them on as they headed to the state tournament’s Final Four.

The boys’ team will play the Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds today at 10:45 a.m. in the Schottenstein Center.

The Panthers defeated the Ironton Fighting Tigers Saturday to win the Division III regional championship at Ohio University.

“We beat Ironton. We beat them bad,” Coach Ryan Davis told the assembly.

“Now we’ve got a regional championship, that’s the first one in 88 years of Chesapeake basketball.”

The coach hopes to bring a state championship banner to go with its regional championship banner, he said.

Purple, white and black balloons as well as banners dotted the school’s hallways and gymnasium. Students and staff donned purple in support of their school.

“This is a great opportunity for the students and the school,” Chesapeake Superintendent Scott Howard said. “It’s an exciting time.”

Chesapeake has a long tradition of great basketball, he said.

“We’re really proud of what they’ve accomplished,” Howard said. “It sets an example of what the school systems can do when they set their mind to it.”

Seeing the team head to its first state championship was especially important to Paul “Hammie” Leffingwell and his wife Carol.

Leffingwell was a member of the board of education for 32 years.

A stroke has left him wheelchair bound and unable to attend many of the games but the couple still listens to the games on the radio.

“He’s had tears of joy every time they’ve won,” Carol Leffingwell said.

The district has closed schools today so students and staff can attend the game.

“We’re proud of them,” Principal Joe Rase said. “We’re looking forward to it.”