HANCEVILLE -- Thomas Swinea had dreamed about this shot many times before. Most little kids with a basketball have.
Time winding down, one final shot will win it, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, swish.
Swinea joked that he always made it in his head. He lived it Thursday.
Coming out of a timeout with 10 seconds to play, Swinea drove right toward the baseline, turned and drained a 17-foot jumper that lifted Mars Hill to a 58-56 win against Winfield in a Class 3A boys semifinal at the AHSAA Northwest Regional tournament.
Though the final buzzer sounded, officials put 1.5 back on the clock, but a Winfield half-court heave drew nothing but air.
Using the dramatic shot to avoid a season-ending collapse, the second-ranked Panthers (27-5) advance to the regional final to play Madison Academy (20-12) on Saturday at 5:20 p.m. at Wallace State-Hanceville's Tom Drake Coliseum.
"As a little kid, you always want to play in Hanceville, counting down the time in your head," Swinea said. "Taking that shot, you think about it all the time."
The Panthers dominated the first quarter, led by as many as 18 points in the first half and led by as much as 50-40 on a Joe Wilson 3-pointer with 6:14 left to play.
As it had before, Winfield (21-9) rallied again, using a 16-6 run to tie it at 56 on a put-back by 6-foot-5 sophomore Jared Henderson with 49 seconds left.
Mars Hill, which had previously led from the game's first basket, stalled for a final shot.
Panthers coach Mike Mitchell confirmed the call out of the timeout was to put it in Swinea's hands, but the play didn't exactly go as designed.
"We were looking more for something in the lane, to attack the rim instead of that shot" Mitchell said, "because he's capable of it.
"He's one of our hardest workers," Mitchell added. "I have a lot of confidence in him, and he has a lot of confidence in himself and should. We felt like going to him, really try to post him up. I could have called any one of five guys names' to take that shot, but it happened to be him."
Swinea took the ball near the top of the key with five seconds left and drove right off a screen. Two Winfield defenders collided, creating an opening for Swinea's still-contested jumper.
Swinea scored a game-high 16 points. Harrison Chastain added 14 for the Panthers.
Jordan Junkin had 14 points for Winfield, and Ryan Spann added 11.
Such drama didn't seem probable as Mars Hill scored the game's first 10 points and raced out to a 28-10 lead.
But Winfield, which missed its first 18 shots from the field, rallied to pull within five before trailing 32-26 at halftime.
The Pirates pulled within 42-38 on Jordan Williams' jumper in the lane with a minute left in the third quarter.
In the fourth, Kent Jenkins sank back-to-back 3s to make it 50-49 with 3:15 to play.
"We let up," Swinea said. "They out-worked us. They whipped us down low."
The Pirates accounted for 13 of their 21 offensive rebounds in the first half and held a 42-33 advantage overall against the Panthers, who managed five offensive rebounds.
Winfield outscored Mars Hill 16-4 on second-chance points and held a 19-3 advantage in points off turnovers. The Panthers had 15 turnovers to the Pirates' five.
"That was the difference in them getting back into the first half," Mitchell said. "The third quarter, too. We extended, and there were four or five trips where we stopped them on the initial shot but they scored. We either turned it over back to them, or they beat us to the rebound for an easy put-back.
"It's always good to get off to a great start, and we did. But give credit to Winfield. It didn't bother them. Really the rest of the way, I thought they played harder than we did. ... We were just fortunate Thomas hit a big shot at the end and we had the ball last."
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or email@example.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.