SYRACUSE -- With the game, and quite possibly the season on the line, Diante Mitchell did what big-time players do. He refused to let the Titans lose.
With both squads fighting for a playoff berth, after starting 2-for-10 from the field, the 6-foot-1 senior with a 20.4 ppg average rallied Syracuse from an eight-point fourth quarter deficit for a 54-51 victory.
He got a steal and a transition two-handed dunk to pull the Titans to within 51-50 with 2:09 to play. He then put Syracuse on top with 27 seconds left with a pair of free throws and knocked down two more with five seconds remaining.
"I knew (Layton's Mike) Hibbert didn't see me coming and he threw it," Mitchell said. "As soon as I picked it off I said I'm going to dunk it and we're going to get some momentum going back our way.
"That game was huge for us. That was win and go to the state tournament. We started off slow but when we went into halftime we knew if we came out and played hard we could still come back and get the win."
In the opposite locker room, the Lancers, riding a three-game winning streak, could only shake their heads about an opportunity that slipped away. Layton now needs to defeat league-leading Weber in its finale to keep its slim postseason hopes alive.
The Lancers were sloppy with the ball down the stretch and could never get their post players on track. After Hibbert and Jarriesse Blackmon combined for 45 points in last week's win over Davis, the pair shot only 6-for-23 for a combined 12 points. Layton also made zero trips to the foul line, after amassing 40 attempts against the Darts.
With Syracuse packing in its defense, Layton was able to forge ahead behind hot 3-point shooting. Josh Harrop, Dallin Johnson and Scott Sweeten combined to shoot 9-for-12 from behind the arc.
"We really focused on taking Jarriesse and Hibbert away. That was the game plan," Syracuse coach Justin Nelson said. "Credit to them they had some other guys step up and hit shots. We executed it well and fortunately it was just enough.
"It's a tough league. It's a battle every night. You've got five teams going into tonight that have a chance of winning a region championship. That was a big game and a great atmosphere. That's why we play. That's why we get after it, to have a chance to play a game that means something."
Just as they did in the first meeting, a 55-54 Syracuse win on Jan. 25, the Lancers had the final shot. However, Hibbert's potential tying 3-pointer clanked off the front of the rim as time expired.
The contest was tied at 12 after the first quarter and Layton took a 30-28 advantage into the half. As the third quarter opened, Hibbert scored six unanswered points to put the Lancers up 36-28, however they couldn't shake the Titans, who stayed within striking distance until their final surge.
Harrop scored 16 points for the Lancers while Dallin Johnson added nine.
Syracuse was led by Mitchell's 16 points, while teammate Michael Phelps chipped in 13, including three 3-pointers.