Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Shiloh's Bryan Thompson (21) awaits a rebound beside Walton's Malik Chenault (2) and John Ashley (5) during the first round of Class AAAAAA boys basketball state playoffs in Snellville Wednesday. Shiloh defeated Walton 54-52.
SNELLVILLE -- Shiloh's Nate Mason made SportsCenter's top 10 plays last week for his game winning shot in a national tournament.
The junior had another highlight reel performance on Wednesday in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
Mason hit the game-winner with 2.3 seconds left to lift Shiloh past Walton 54-52.
"This one has got to be bigger," Mason said. "This is for the state championship. We lose this and we're out."
Mason led all scorers with 26 points and put Shiloh in the second round against Peachtree Ridge, which defeated Centennial.
"They are big and aggressive. It will be intense," Shiloh coach Kim Rivers said. "They are a very good team on that side of Gwinnett."
The big shot was one of many for the 5-foot-11 Mason, who transferred from Columbia, this season. Mason hit a half-court shot to beat St. Francis (Md.) on Jan. 26 in Florida. The shot got the attention of former NBA All-Star Shaquille O'Neal, who was in attendance and made ESPN's top plays.
"Bottom line. No ifs, ands or buts about it. You want him to have it," Rivers said.
Shiloh (22-6) lost to eventual state champion Milton in the second round of last year's playoffs. It looked like it was going to be another early exit for the Generals, who won the Region 8-AAAAAA championship.
No. 4 seed Walton (13-13) had a 14-point lead in the second quarter and led 30-19 at the half.
"I think it was a little bit of nerves," Mason said of the first half. "In the second half, we got the jitters out."
Shiloh began the third quarter with eight straight points to cut Walton's lead to 30-28 after Trayvon Reed's layup. But Walton answered right away with Rico Overall knocking down one of his five 3-pointers. Overall led the Raiders with 23 points, while Maurice Gibson had 10.
Overall made a layup at the end of the quarter to help push Walton's lead to 43-33 to start the fourth quarter.
Shiloh scored seven straight points to start the fourth period, which was led by Mason's 3-pointer.
"The 3-pointer was big and changed the momentum," Rivers said.
Mason hit another 3 to give Shiloh its first lead since the first quarter with 5:16 left in the game.
Overall countered with a pair of 3-pointers to tie the game twice, including one with 1:33 left in the game to make it 52-52.
"He kept shooting the ball real careful and smooth," Mason said.
Mason was fouled on two attempts to the basket in the final 30 seconds of the game. He finally got through the defense and hit a shot at the top of the key to send Shiloh to the second round.
"I knew he was going to foul me and I had to get past him and make a shot," Mason said.
Reed finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Generals.
"We didn't play our game," Rivers said. "We played one of our worst games, but we were able to come out alive and get the W."