MURPHYSBORO — With five seconds remaining, Calvon Clemons dribbled the length of the court to hit a layup just before the final buzzer to lift Murphysboro over Pinckneyville in the Class 2A Regional championship, 50-48.
The Red Devils surrendered the lead after Dawson Yates tied the game at 48-48 with the game clock ticking below 10 seconds, which left Daryl Murphy hesitant on whether or not to call a timeout.
“They always say not to call in that situation, but I started to panic when Clemons was dribbling back-and-forth and then once he went he found a seam in the defense and got to the basket,” said Murphy.
Clemons has been the leading scorer for the Red Devils all season long, but it took the sophomore until the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter to score his first basket after facing tight defense up until then. Clemons ended the night with just four points, but those final two were the most important of the year for Murphysboro.
“When I got inbounded the ball, I didn’t realize the time was running out, but as soon as I looked at the clock, I took off and made the layup,” said Clemons.
Murphysboro got most of its scoring from JaQuan Jackson early in the game, but Jamarr McZeke’s clutch shooting in the lane helped build the Red Devils lead to 42-36 with 3:15 remaining.
Jackson began the evening participating in the 3-point shootout and finished 3 of 5 from beyond the arc to lead the Red Devils with 14 points in the first half and 20 overall.
Dawson Yates did all that he could to keep Pinckneyville within arm's reach the entire game by scoring a team-high 24 points. Murphysboro’s largest lead came when Dezmond Clark took a stolen pass and converted a breakaway layup for a nine-point cushion in the third quarter.
McZeke got things started in the second half with his first 3-pointer of the game, before Jackson came back down on the next possession and drilled a three of his own to force Bob Waggoner into taking a Pinckneyville timeout at the 7:02 mark.
The Panthers came out of the timeout with a pair of bad passes out of bounds and a very uncharacteristic missed layup from Yates without a defender in sight. Yates redeemed himself down the line with the 3-pointer that tied things up for the Panthers, but an unawareness on getting back defensively led to Clemons hitting the game-winning layup.
“We had a tied ball game when they inbounded the ball, and they dribbled the ball down the length of the floor, and we didn’t stop them,” Waggoner said about his team’s defense on the final play. “There wasn’t anything we could do there. You’re supposed to get back and build your wall to keep them in front of you, but we didn’t execute when we needed to.”
Pinckneyville gave itself a chance at the end after Grant Tanner knocked down a pair of free throws to cut the Panthers deficit down to three. Hunter Riggins got a good look from beyond the 3-point line on the next possession, but just missed.
That forced the Panthers into fouling, but they were bailed out after Clark missed on a one and one opportunity from the free throw line. Pinckneyville knotted the game up with Yates’ 3-pointer on the next possession, but didn’t get back on the defensive end.
The Red Devils will try to keep their season hopes alive against Mount Carmel in the Hamilton County Sectional on March 4. The Golden Aces won the Vienna Regional after defeating Massac County, 51-44.