SNELLVILLE -- Unlike the regular-season finale between the two teams a week earlier, Shiloh's boys knew another win over Archer wouldn't come nearly as easy in the Region 8-AAAAAA tournament championship game.
Sure enough, the Tigers refused to let the Generals run away like they did last week, even after building a double-digit lead in the second half.
But as Archer chipped away, late in the fourth quarter, Nate Mason provided the steady leadership Shiloh needed.
The junior guard scored 15 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, including six straight free throws in the final seconds that helped the Generals eventually put away a 68-58 win Saturday night at South Gwinnett High School.
The win gave Shiloh what is believed to be its first region title in boys basketball, and accomplished the first goal the Generals (21-6) had their sights set on this season.
"This was the first goal of the season," said Shiloh coach Kim Rivers, whose team lost to Berkmar on two late free throws in last year's championship game. "We really wanted to do it not just based on last year, but for the Shiloh community. This community has supported this program for many years, and as you can see, the students, the faculty and the parents are out, and they want something to believe in."
But Archer (21-7) made Shiloh work much harder for this win than in last week's matchup, even after the Generals led by as much as 11 points in the first half, and still led 31-22 after a stickback dunk from Trayvon Reed with 1:18 left.
Bryan Hamlet drained a 3-pointer from the left corner with 55 seconds left in the half, and the Tigers made a defensive stand as the half ended to go into intermission down just 31-25.
Even after the Generals led 45-31 after three quarters, and built their biggest lead of the game at 51-33 following Elliott Strickland's driving layup with 6:42 to play, Archer refused to quit, and began fighting its way back from behind the 3-point arc.
Nafis Floyd and Bryan Hamlet each hit treys during a 9-2 run that cut the Shiloh lead to 53-42 with 4:36 remaining.
The Tigers then began trading three points for the Generals' two on the next series of possessions, with Hamlet and Floyd each hitting a 3-pointer, and Hamlet adding three free throws after being fouled behind the arc to counter 2-point buckets by Shiloh's Mason, Kyle Lewis and Trayvon Reed.
And with Archer picking up the defensive pressure to force the lion's share of Shiloh's 12 turnovers in the final frame, the Tigers pulled as close as 62-55 after a pair of Kelvin Nwanze free throws with 1:06 left.
That's when Mason became a calming influence by handling and distributing the ball through the Archer press and getting to the line, where the 5-foot-11 junior hit six straight in the final 24.9 seconds.
"I didn't care how many turnovers I had (leading up to the final minutes), we just needed this win," said Mason, who added a team-high three assists on the night. "They were sending two (defenders) at me, and I just told the man they left to just attack. ... I just had to calm my team down by slowing the ball sometimes. We just kept going back and forth. ... We just had to take control."
The last four of those came after Archer got as close as 64-58 on the last of Hamlet's five 3-pointers on the night -- part of a game-high 26 points -- with 19 seconds left, as the Generals finally were able to put the game away, and set up a matchup with Region 5-AAAAAA fourth seed Walton in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state tournament next week.
Though Archer's heroic comeback effort came up short, Tigers coach Tim Watkins was pleased with the way his team kept fighting, and believes it bodes well for when his team hosts Cherokee in the first round of the state tournament.
"This group's come so far in a short history of the program," Watkins said. "I knew they'd keep battling. That's what they've always done. We just didn't make enough plays and made too many mistakes, and Shiloh played too well."
In addition to Mason's heroics, Shiloh also got another big night from Reed, who posted a double-double with 13 pints and 12 rebounds, plus two blocked shots, while Lewis added 11 points and five boards and Brian Thompson chipped in eight points and six boards.
Nwanze joined Hamlet in double figures for Archer with 11 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Berkmar 52, Dacula 48, OT
Each team overcame second-half deficits to force overtime, where Malcolm Hannah's 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining gave the Patriots (16-12) the lead for good.
"You don't want to let (a game) like that get away, especially after last night," said Berkmar coach Gregory Phillips, whose team dropped a 50-48 semifinal loss to Shiloh on a dunk by Trayvon Reed in the closing seconds on Friday.
Kevon Tucker gave Dacula (19-9) its last lead of the night at 43-41 on a pair of free throws with 3:49 left in the overtime.
But with the game tied at 46-all, Hannah got free in the corner and drained a 3-pointer to put the Patriots in front.
Berkmar struggled with free-throw shooting throughout the game, hitting just 15 of 26, but Tim Rowe, who had a team-high 15 points, hit the two most important shots with six seconds left to seal the win and give the Patriots the region's No. 3 seed and a date with the Region 5-AAAAAA runner-up in next week's state tournament.
Joining Rowe in double figures for Berkmar were Hannah with 11 points, plus C.J. Foster and Jonathan Sanks, each with 10.
Dacula's Brandon Goodson scored 12 points to lead all scorers, while Cameron Lewis added nine.
Goodson, Lewis and Jaylen Williams each pulled down six rebounds for the Falcons, who will meet the Region 5-AAAAAA champion in the first round of the state tournament next week.