The pass hit Ace Sanders in rhythm, just outside the 3-point line. There wasn't a body within 8 feet of the Manatee freshman. The Hurricanes' host crowd hummed a collective "Ooh," in anticipation of a shot.
"I was gonna shoot," Sanders said, "or drive."
He did neither. Instead, Sanders looked up at the fourth quarter clock: "1:20."
He dribbled away from the hoop. In doing so, Manatee rolled 25 seconds off the clock, and took a three-point lead with Sanders' free throw.
Manatee (7-13) finished its 60-55 win over Palmetto (13-10), which didn't score until 6 seconds remained, and the game was about decided.
"Hey, Ace," Manatee coach Brian Reeves said afterward. "How many times have I told you not to shoot with a lead under one minute left?"
Sanders, leaning against a gymnasium door, said, "I lost count."
But he remembered.
Because of that one, snappy decision, Manatee did not ruin a 29-point, seven-rebound effort by Edgard Theliar.
Most impressive, Manatee managed to endure Palmetto's first-quarter, 3-point fest. The Tigers first six shots made were 3s - three by Rodney Mitchell (13 points, eight rebounds) and three by Bryan Smith (20 points).
Manatee was playing a 2-3 defense, which allowed Palmetto's shooters to stand unguarded and hoist a shot before Manatee's defense could adjust.
So the Hurricanes switched to a man-to-man defense.
And man - did it do wonders. Palmetto didn't hit a 3 until P.J. Hayes busted one with two minutes left, bringing the Tigers to within 55-53.
"I'm going, 'Son of a gun,' " Reeves said, "of course they'd hit one with 2 minutes left in the game." Of course, Manatee held off the Tigers. It helped that Palmetto's Julius Brown, who had seven points and three blocks, fouled out with 3 minutes left.
Leading to the foul out, Manatee's Mark Templeton caught an inbound pass and was tied up with a Palmetto defender. Templeton hit the floor and, from his back, lobbed a pass under the basket to Theliar, who sunk a layup while getting fouled by Brown.
Brown sat down, and Manatee went up, 51-48.
Without Brown, a low-post player, the Tigers could have used Joe Hills, a monster in the paint who is headed to the University of South Carolina to play football. Hills missed his third straight game because of injury.
Once Manatee went to man, diminishing Palmetto's outside game, there was no answer from the inside.
"We stopped doing what we were doing," said Palmetto assistant coach Wilmore Fowler, who took the place of head coach Kenny Ansbro for the night. "I have to credit Manatee for going to man. They took away out 3-point shooters."
PALMETTO (55) - Edward Parrimon 2 4-14 8, Rodney Mitchell 4 2-4 13, Bryan Smith 7 2-2 20, Josh Johnson 1 0-0 2, P.J. Hayes 2 0-0 5, Julius Brown 3 1-2 7. Totals: 19 9-22 55.
MANATEE (60) - Ace Sanders 3 4-8 11, Larry Sanders 1 1-2 4, Edgard Theliar 10 9-15 29, Dion Shorey 2 5-7 9, Mark Templeton 1 0-0 2, Jason Bottoms 1 1-3 3, Bjorn Campbell 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 20-36 60.
Palmetto 20 10 14 11 - 55
Manatee 11 18 14 17 - 60
3-pointers: Palmetto 8 (Mitchell 3, Smith 4, Hayes 1); Manatee 2 (L.Sanders 12, A.Sanders 1). Total fouls: Palmetto 22; Manatee 16. Fouled out: Brown (Palmetto). Technical fouls: Bench (Palmetto). Records: Palmetto 13-10; Manatee 7-13.