WINNSBORO -- "We definitely want to take it to the house of Devan Downey," Chester coach Jason Smith said in reference to the Cyclones basketball legend -- and current South Carolina Gamecock -- following his team's dramatic 65-57 win over Travelers Rest on Tuesday.
Chester's not quite there, but Tuesday took a giant step toward the Colonial Center, where the state championship will be played on March 1.
Forward Jemarcus McClinton, who wears Downey's high school number (3), provided the spark for Chester in the third round of the Class AAA playoffs, played at Fairfield Central.
McClinton scored 19 of his game-high 29 points in the second half to rally the Cyclones from a seven-point halftime deficit.
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"I wanted the ball," McClinton said without hesitation. "I told the team that if they get me the ball, I was going to get us to Clemson."
Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum will host the Upper State championship on Saturday. The Cyclones will face Greenville.
Travelers Rest (17-10), the fourth-seeded team from Region 1-AAA, used a 16-4 second-quarter run to seize momentum and control with 1:40 remaining before the half. Chester ended the quarter with six of the final eight points, but went into the locker room down by seven, 33-26.
"I told them to simply play our game," Smith said, describing the halftime talk. "We were not doing the things which make us successful. We were not penetrating and taking intelligent shots. We were not moving offensively, and we certainly had to cut down on turnovers."
Chester (17-8) carried that strategy into the third quarter, where the momentum took a huge swing. Marcus Johnson's layup gave Travelers Rest a 35-26 lead, but Xavier Mayfield and McClinton connected on consecutive 3-pointers. Guard Gene McCaskill drove the lane for a medium-range jumper, cutting the deficit to one.
Two possessions later, the Cyclones took the lead. McClinton scored on the interior and then sank a jumper for a 40-39 Cyclones advantage.
Chester maintained a one-point edge entering the fourth quarter, and increased the lead to four with 6:18 remaining. The Devildogs answered with a 7-0 run and led 53-50 when Javius Thompson put back an offensive rebound with 4:43 remaining.
McClinton responded with a layup while being fouled. He sank the free throw to tie the contest at 53 with 3:43 remaining.
Sebais Duck's inside hoop and Myshun Thompson's two free throws gave the Devildogs a 57-54 lead. Then following a Cyclones turnover, the Devildogs went to a delay offense.
Chester turned up its defense and didn't yield another point. Mayfield drove in for a layup to cut the deficit to one, 57-56, with 1:33 remaining, and then the Cyclones' defense forced a five-second violation. McClinton shook a defender and drove the lane for a finger-roll layup with 1:25 remaining.
Following a Travelers Rest miss, center Donald Sims, who collected a game-high 13 rebounds, collected a Mayfield miss and scored for a 60-57 Chester lead with 1:06 to go. Travelers Rest continued to go cold, and Chester sank 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Travelers Rest 13 20 13 11 -- 57
Chester 16 10 21 18 -- 65