Jaylon Clements won’t forget his first game-winning shot.
Skyline fans won’t either.
Clements drained a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to send the No. 5-ranked Vikings past Winterboro 47-44 in the Class 1A Northeast Regional semifinals Thursday night at Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
“First time I’ve ever hit a buzzer-beating game winner,” Clements said. “It feels amazing.”
No. 5-ranked Skyline (24-8) advanced to play No. 3 Spring Garden (23-6) in the regional finals on Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. The winner moves on to the Class 1A State Tournament semifinals in Birmingham.
“We started the season 4-4, [so] it didn’t look too good,” said Skyline forward Collin Lockard. “But this something you dream of.”
Skyline, which has won nine straight games, is headed to the regional finals for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
“Starting the year off, wouldn’t expecting to get here. These guys have stepped it up,” said Skyline head coach Ronnie McCarver. “Really proud of them.”
Lockard nearly posted a triple-double in the win, recording 29 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Clements closed with 10 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals while Dawson Wynn added eight points, 15 rebounds and two assists.
The win was a typical defensive-grind, post-oriented type effort for Skyline. The Vikings used their height advantage to block 11 Winterboro shots and post a 50-31 rebounding advantage on Bulldogs, who had just eight offensive rebounds.
“It’s not always pretty to watch,” McCarver said, “but as long as we’re winning, we don’t care.”
Winterboro (20-9), which Skyline held to 30 percent shooting (15-of-49), led 10-8 after one quarter but never led again after Lockard scored inside with 2:32 left in the second quarter. Skyline led 24-22 at halftime and it carried a 39-36 edge into the fourth quarter when Clements beat the third quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer.
The Vikings held Winterboro scoreless for the first 5:22 of the fourth quarter and built a 44-36 lead after Clements’ bucket in the post, but Chance Dandridge started an 8-0 run for Winterboro with a jumper and then a one-handed dunk after a steal that swung momentum. Skyline then committed three consecutive turnovers and the Bulldogs ultimately tied the game on Cameron Pointer’s two free throws with 1:10 remaining.
After Skyline committed another turnover with 54 seconds remaining, it Winterboro appeared would hold for the final shot. But when Skyline’s Kordell Talley inched closer to start a five-second count, Winterboro’s Pointer drove to the basket only to have his shot blocked by both Clements and Wynn, who came down with the basketball.
After Skyline called timeout with 11.9 seconds remaining, Talley caught the inbound pass and passed to Lockard. He drove the lane, but with his path to the basket cut off, found Clements to the left of the top of the key for the winning trey.
McCarver said Skyline did not get the shot it hoped to get but definitely got the result it wanted.
“I’m glad [Clements] made that thing,” he said. “It turned out to be a good play.”
Time appeared to expire after Clements’ 3-pointer, but the officials ruled Winterboro called timeout and put 1.3 seconds back on the clock. The Bulldogs missed a near half-court 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Now the Vikings face a Spring Garden team that took down sharpshooter Tommy Murr and Lindsay Lane 91-65 in Thursday’s other regional semifinal.
“They shoot it really good from outside. We’re really going to have to extend that zone. The [post player] inside is pretty tough,” McCarver said Spring Garden. “It’ll be tough. I got confidence in these boys.”