TRINITY — The ball was delivered perfectly to Hillsborough's Dexter Stallworth, 18 feet from the rim. Catch and shoot, just like practice.
All Mitchell wanted to do was kill the clock, protect a lead and escape with a victory against the Terriers in the Class 7A region semifinals.
Instead, another playoff win and the fading hopes of Hillsborough was in the sight line of one of the area's emerging clutch shooters.
Catch and shoot. Swish.
Stallworth's short jumper gave the Terriers a one-point lead in what turned out to be the winning basket in a 37-34 victory.
Hillsborough (27-3), which extended its win streak to 18, will host Orlando Edgewater in Friday's region final.
"When it comes down to the end, I feel like I should be taking the shot," Stallworth said. "This is our moment, our year. We were going to do anything we can to pull it out."
These teams met last year in the region quarterfinals. The Terriers won that one by 16 en route to making the region finals. The teams were pretty intact from a year ago.
The only surprise was the style of play. The Mustangs (21-9) deliberately slowed the pace to try to get Hillsborough out of a 2-3 zone. During one possession in the second quarter, Mitchell held the ball for about three minutes.
The strategy worked. The Mustangs went into the half with a 16-14 lead.
"(Mitchell) did a good job," Terriers coach Chris Ward said. "I watched them on film and didn't see them play like that at all. And I watched like three of their games about 50 times."
Points were precious. With 4:31 left, the Mustangs held a 30-26 lead. They were up 34-30 in the final two minutes after Justin Marquez hit a layup.
After struggling to hit anything from the outside, Hillsborough finally started to get shots to fall at the right time. The first big one came from Ken Montgomery, whose 3-pointer with 1:45 left cut the deficit to 34-33.
That set up Stallworth's winning shot.
"Dexter has been knocking that shot down all year," Ward said. "He's our go-to guy. Without Dexter on the floor, we don't move on."
Mitchell had a chance for the final shot but turned the ball over with 17 seconds left. The Terriers' sealed it when Zach Carter hit a layup to put him over 1,000 points in his career.
Bryce Moragne had a team-high 12 points for Hillsborough. The Mustangs' Jimmy Eannel led all scorers with 15 points.
"I'm proud of the guys for the way they played," Mitchell coach Jared St. Charles said. "Hillsborough just hit some big shots at the end."