SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Isaiah Payton never had any doubt.
The Moeller junior point guard made a game-winning half-court shot with 1.8 seconds left as the Crusaders defeated Withrow 54-51 in a Division I sectional final at Hamilton High School.
In a season with so many milestones -- including the first undefeated regular season in program history -- the Crusaders (24-0) were in danger of letting their memorable winter end prematurely.
Payton, nicknamed “Sleepy,” didn’t want this journey to end for any of his senior teammates. Moeller hadn’t played its best all night.
Yet, after Withrow made a layup, the Crusaders didn’t want to call timeout. Sophomore Miles McBride inbounded the ball to Payton and he was off to a sprint.
“I felt like it was going in once I shot it,” Payton told WCPO.com Sunday afternoon. “I yelled at half court and (McBride) came over and hugged me.”
The moment was captured on video by the Moeller basketball Twitter account and was retweeted 444 times and liked 746 times by 2 p.m. Sunday:
The shot that sent the Crusaders to the District Championship!!!! #CrusadetoColumbus #Fearless pic.twitter.com/SL75TkuP3K
— Moeller Basketball (@MoellerBBall) March 5, 2017
“Sleepy’s shot last night is one we’ll talk about 20 or 30 years from now,” Moeller coach Carl Kremer told WCPO.com. “It was exciting.”
The game-winning shot clinched Moeller’s 11th consecutive sectional title and the 16th of the past 17.
Moeller advances to play Walnut Hills in a district final at 1 p.m. Saturday at University of Dayton Arena.
Kremer, who earned his 500th career win at the end of December, knows full well that March is all about “survive and advance 32 minutes at a time.” Moeller is nationally-ranked but the game isn’t played on paper.
Kremer, who has coached at Moeller in 1989-90, doesn’t remember another half-court buzzer-beater to win a game in his coaching career.
“This is what tournament basketball is all about,” Kremer said.
The shot was reminiscent of late-game heroics provided by Matt Sylvester’s tip-in against Beavercreek in the 1999 regional final which sent the Crusaders to their first state Final Four and eventual state title.
In 2013, Josh Davenport made a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to defeat St. Xavier at home, according to Moeller statistician Steven Albrinck.
Payton, one of the state’s top point guards in the 2018 class, practices the half-court shot in Saturday shootarounds this season and has won some team contests.
But, he’s never made one in a high school game with so much on the line.
Kremer told him after the game that "sometimes you have to give luck a chance." Payton had a good form, and his only self-criticism was that he made the shot too early with 1.8 seconds left.
Kremer told him not to worry about that part at all: The shot went in, and that’s all that mattered.
“Sleepy is such a talented kid,” Kremer said.
Payton finished the game with 15 points and three assists. Senior guard Keegan McDowell had 19 points and six rebounds.
Payton’s phone had a ton of text messages after the game.
He didn’t go to bed until 1 or 2 a.m. He couldn’t sleep very much. The thrill of the shot was enough adrenaline. He heard plenty of kudos from those around him. No doubt he will hear plenty at school Monday.
“They are like ‘wow’ and just happy I made it,” Payton said. “I am happy I could continue our season.”
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