Burke High’s Karimah Jenkins had always dreamed of making a game-winning shot at the buzzer, but the shot she made on Monday night to send her team to the Class A Lower State final far exceeded her own imagination.
With Burke trailing, 45-43, to Estill High with seven seconds remaining in the semifinal game, Jenkins was able to steal a loose ball at the other end of the floor. She dribbled three or four times to reach the mid-court area before launching a shot toward the rim as the buzzer sounded. The ball swished easily through the net, setting off a wild celebration as fans rushed the floor.
Burke’s 46-45 win places the Bulldogs in Saturday’s Lower State championship game against Timmonsville at 11 a.m. in the Florence Civic Center.
“Sometimes during our water breaks in practice, some of us will go out on the floor and try crazy shots, like from half-court and stuff,” Jenkins said after the game. “I just wanted to make sure I got it off in time. I could see it was going to be close. I can hardly speak. We always feel like we have a chance to win. Seven seconds is a long time.”
Burke coach Wayne Alston said the final shot was an answered prayer, but he will take it.
“She threw it up and we all prayed,” Alston said. “No one has ever made one (half-court shot) until that one.”
Jenkins finished with 23 points, scoring 18 in the first half. The Bulldogs (20-4) were tied at 21 at halftime because Jenkins was able to make a layup just before the horn sounded to end the first half.
Estill made adjustments to slow Jenkins in the third quarter and grabbed a 33-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Estill maintained a 43-37 lead with 1:59 to play before Burke began to rally. Baskets by Algernique Whitley and Shadea Kelly cut the lead to 43-41 with 1:05 remaining in the game.
After Estill’s Tykeria Jackson, who scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half, gave the Gators a 45-41 lead, Burke’s Lakeisha Gerald answered with a bucket with 39 seconds left.
Burke forced a turnover with 25 seconds left but turned the ball back over with seven seconds on the clock, setting up the late heroics.
“This team never quits and they always feel they have a chance because of how hard we work on defense,” Alston said. “Every time, in our huddle, we break saying ‘100 percent.’ We don’t take a break.
“We really had several girls make huge plays in the fourth quarter, hitting shots or getting steals. Karimah is our marquee player but this was a big team win for sure.”
Burke survived Estill’s size advantage, particularly 6-3 post Roche Brown, who scored 20 points. Alston believed his team’s pressure defense throughout the night paid off late in the game.
“They were much taller than we were, but we never stop doing what we do and that helped us down the stretch,” the coach said. “Nobody plays the pressure defense like we do. We may not be the best offensive team, but we are going to pressure from end to end.”