Northside High coach Kenneth Lawrence said that Jeremy Floyd had struggled over the past two games, both wins, in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
All it took on Wednesday, however, was one heart-stopping second for the guard to get back on track.
Floyd knocked down a buzzer-beater from five feet behind the 3-point line, breaking a tie to give the Patriots a 56-53 over visiting Jenkins. With the win, Northside (23-4) advances to the semifinals, where it will face Miller Grove (28-3) on Saturday at Kennesaw State.
Floyd struggled to find the right words to define the moment after the game.
“I don’t know, man,” he said with a bright smile. “I don’t know what to say. Speechless.”
Lawrence tried to describe the moment for him.
The team inbounded the ball with just under six seconds remaining in the game. Two passes later, the ball was in Floyd’s hands. Floyd, who had an open look, put up the shot right as the buzzer sounded, and the ball hit nothing but the bottom of the net.
“We have good 3-point shooters,” Lawrence said. “I was just hoping we had enough time on the clock where we could get a good shot. I wanted Jeremy Floyd or R.J. Sessions taking the shot. We were going for the win. (Floyd) had a rough last couple of games. I’m happy for him. He’s a great kid, and I’m glad to see him make a big shot.”
Simply getting itself in position for that big shot was a matter of some difficulty for Northside. Jenkins (22-9) controlled most of the game, leading by as many as nine points late in the third quarter.
Every time the Patriots got close, it seemed, Jenkins would catch a break and pull back away by five or six points.
Northside trailed by seven points, 42-35, entering the final quarter. That’s when things started to come together.
Tay Sears opened the quarter with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four. Jenkins extended its lead back to seven three minutes later, but the Patriots kept chipping away. Sessions rebounded a missed shot and pull the ball back up to cut the lead to five. A minute and a half later, Floyd hit a couple of free throws to get within three points.
With one minute, 33 seconds left, Sessions knocked down a short jumper and followed with a pair of free shots 36 seconds later to tie the game at 53-53, setting Floyd up for his game-winner.
Sessions, Sears and Floyd led the way for the Patriots, scoring 19, 10 and 11 points, respectively.
“We talked about before we came out that this half, we just wanted to be in it,” Lawrence said. “Just keep it close, and we’ll win it at the end. That’s exactly what happened.”
“They pushed us,” Floyd added. “We just had to play through it, play through the fouls and stay focused.”
The trip to the semifinals is a first for this group of players, many of whom are seniors who have been together since freshman year.
Floyd said it was an exciting moment to get to this point after years of hard work.
“We’ve been working hard for this since freshman year,” he said. “And we did it.”
Jenkins, which had won 14 of its last 15 games going into Wednesday night, was led by Paris Baker (12 points) and QuaSean Harris (11 points).
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports
Wednesday at Northside
Jenkins 17 10 15 11—53
Northside 12 13 10 21—56
Baker 12, Harris 11, Carter 9, Perry 8, Gray 8, Polite 3, Johnson 2.
Sessions 19, Sears 11, Floyd 10, Thomas 7, Beverly 5, Vincent 4.
Records: Jenkins, 22-9; Northside, 23-4. Next: Jenkins, season over; Northside, vs. Miller Grove on Saturday (at Kennesaw State).