A bucket with less than three seconds left put Booker High on top.
The basketball jounced off the rim as the Booker High crowd suppressed its screams.
Boom, boom, boom, boom, swish.
Volcanic cheers rattled the gym. Tornadoes senior guard Jaylen Jones had given the team a 44-42 lead over visiting Mariner High on a drive down the middle of the paint. He fell to the floor as the ball fell through the hoop, then stood and was picked up in elation by junior Johnnie Williams IV. The rest of the team joined the joyous party.
Mariner would call timeout and commit a turnover on the ensuing possession. The two-point lead would stand.
For the first time since the program's state title-winning 2006 season, Booker boys basketball (29-2) is headed to the final four.
"We made the plays when we needed to," Booker coach Markus Black said. "We made the stops when we needed to. I'm just so proud of these guys. I don't do anything. I'm nothing without God and I'm nothing without these players."
The Tornadoes won despite scoring two points in the third quarter after amassing a 28-22 halftime lead. Black attributed the third quarter's offensive struggles to both a solid Mariner defense and his team fatiguing from their own defensive effort. The Tornadoes had a size deficit against Mariner, Black said, like they have all season. It's through willpower and want-to that the team's defense stifled the Mariner attack.
As for the man who hit the game winner, he found himself at a loss.
"So much," Jones said, on what was going through his mind as he held the ball in his hands, the seconds falling off the clock. "It was a tie game. I didn't know what to do. I tried to stay within the game and put my team on top.
"I'm just happy my team is going to states. It's a blessing, that's all I can say."
Jones finished with 12 points. Junior guard Jordan Clark led the team with 15.
Junior guard Johnnie Williams IV said the team always knew it was capable of making it this far, even if others did not.
"We've been doubted for so long," he said. "It's crazy. It's not a surprise to us, but we basically shocked everybody in the city. They didn't expect us to end up like this, but we're in the final four."
Booker will play defending 6A champion Leesburg High (28-1) on March 7 in Lakeland, with the time to be determined. Leesburg is ranked 68th in the nation by MaxPreps, third in Florida and first in Class 6A. Senior Keon Ellis, a Gardner-Webb University commit, and junior Lance Erving are Yellow Jackets to watch.