HILMAR -- Before the ball went up in the air, Quinton McCown looked over at his teammate Trent Goiburn and gave a nod.
Goiburn knew the play was on.
McCown exploded off the ground, easily winning the jump ball to start overtime. McCown swatted a pass down court that hit Goiburn perfectly in stride for an easy layup and just like that, Hilmar was off and running.
Hilmar outscored Highlands 11-6 in overtime to win its first playoff game since 2003 with a 63-58 win in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs on Wednesday night.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Modesto Bee
"We like McCown's chances of outjumping anybody," said Hilmar coach Danny Freitas, whose team improved to 20-7.
"It's a nice play to get some easy points. We try to do that at the beginning of most games."
McCown's jumping ability played a key role as the senior dominated a smaller Highland team.
The 6-foot, 4-inch senior scored 22 points and hauled down 18 rebounds to help Hilmar end its seven-year playoff drought.
"That's huge for us," Freitas said. "He's been our rebounding machine right now.
"He was very aggressive taking the ball to the basket. That's what we need him to do."
No. 7 seed Hilmar will travel to San Andreas Friday to face No. 2 Calaveras in a second-round game.
Calaveras defeated Vacaville Christian, 52-37.
Hilmar jumped out to a quick 10-point lead in the first 4 minutes of the game.
Highlands (14-16) answered back with a 7-0 run and eventually tied the game at 16-16 after the first quarter.
The two teams exchanged buzzer-beaters the next two quarters.
Highlands' Eddie Litvinov made a 24-foot shot at the end of the half to cut Hilmar's lead to 29-28.
It was one of Litvinov's three treys as Highlands hurt Hilmar's 2-3 zone all night with nine 3-pointers.
"Playing so many close games in the (Western Athletic Conference) helped a lot ," McCown said. "When they drilled some of those 3s they surprised us. We weren't expecting them to make so many.
"It's tough to get out to their shooters in a 2-3 defense."
McCown returned the favor at the end of the third quarter when he banked in a 26-foot shot at the buzzer to give Hilmar a 41-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"I just threw it up there," McCown said. "That's one of the luckiest shots I've ever hit."
Hilmar led throughout the fourth quarter until Litvinov struck again with a 3-pointer that tied the game at 52-52 with 20 seconds left.
Hilmar's Noel Zadana (11 points) missed an 18-foot jumper at the buzzer and the game went to overtime.
McCown's pass to Goiburn on the jump ball helped Hilmar start overtime with an 8-2 run and soon Hilmar was celebrating a long overdue playoff win.
Goiburn and Daniel Greenleaf each added 12 points for Hilmar.
"I don't know how I feel," Freitas said. "It's exciting. It's the third time I've been to the playoffs and I've been eliminated in the first round twice.
"I'm excited for the kids."
Highlands 16 12 10 14 6 -- 58
Hilmar 16 13 12 11 11 -- 63
HIGHLANDS -- Eddie Litvinov 12, Colton Nelson 10, Brian Taylor 15, Monty Harrell Muhammad 2, Davonte Walker 3, Jeremy Bubier 10, Michael Harvey 6. Totals: 24 1-7 58.
HILMAR -- Josh Tung 4, Quinton McCown 22, Noel Zaldana 11, Alex Bettencourt 2, Trent Goiburn 12, Daniel Greenleaf 12. Totals: 23 14-23 63.
3-pointers: Highlands 9 (Litvinov 3, Taylor 3, Nelson 2, Walker 1), Hilmar 3 (McCown 2, Zaldana 1); Team Fouls: Highlands 19, Hilmar 9; Fouled Out -- Bubier (High).
Records: Hilmar 20-7; Highlands 13-15.