EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - DeAja Reynolds caught the ball on the right wing in overtime Saturday afternoon.

The Atlantic City High School freshman admitted she was unsure of herself.

The Cape-Atlantic League girls basketball championship game was tied.

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Atlantic City was matched against its biggest rival, Holy Spirit.

Fans of both schools were at their loudest.

Reynolds overcame the self-doubt, drove and scored to give the Vikings the lead for good. Atlantic City beat Spirit 53-50 at Egg Harbor Township High School. Vikings forward Tiana Cannon was the best player on the court with 26 points, 14 rebounds and four steals.

Reynolds' only two points of the game came on her overtime basket, which gave Atlantic City a 45-43 edge with 3 minutes, 31 seconds left.

"It was crazy," she said. "I thought about (driving) for a second because I didn't think I could do it. Once I got the ball, I just moved to the basket and made it. I was proud of myself, too. I didn't know I could do it."

The Vikings appeared headed for defeat. Holy Spirit led for most of the game. The Spartans were up four with 33.7 seconds left in regulation and up three with 13.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

"We never gave up," Cannon said.

Atlantic City was in its first CAL title game since the contest started in 1992. Spirit made its seventh appearance in the past 10 years. The Vikings (20-2) are No. 8 in The Press' Elite 11, while Spirit (21-4) is No. 10.

Cannon pulled the Vikings even by sinking 5-of-6 foul shots in the final 17.1 seconds of regulation. She forced the Spartans to foul her with aggressive drives to the basket.

"I knew if we could get to the line, I knew it would pay off," Atlantic City coach Laurie Carter said. "With a minute to go, I just kept saying, 'Look inside. Go to the basket. Be aggressive.' "

Cannon stepped to the foul line with 11.4 seconds left and Spirit ahead by a point. Cannon missed the first shot but made the second.

"I couldn't believe I missed," she said. "But I just had to hold my follow-through (on the second shot) and bend my knees."

Atlantic City immediately grabbed the momentum in overtime. After Reynolds' basket, Shay Collins (11 points, four assists) scored on a fast-break layup to put the Vikings ahead 47-43.

Spirit rallied in overtime. The Spartans cut Atlantic City's lead to one point three times in overtime but could get no closer.

Cannon sank two foul shots and freshman Sahara Lopez made 2-of-4 free throws to preserve the win.

Holy Spirit had a chance to tie, but a long-range 3-pointer bounced off the front of the rim at the buzzer.

The Spartans lamented lost opportunities. Spirit led by as many six points in the second, third and fourth quarters. The Spartans built their lead behind the shooting of Joanna Persiano (18 points) and Tenisha Mobley (12 points).

Atlantic City struggled early. The Vikings made just 4-of-20 shots in the first half. Cannon was 1-of-8 and scored just three points in the first half.

"We were up six a couple of times, and we couldn't get it to eight," Holy Spirit coach Larry DiGiovanni said. "I thought if we got the lead to eight, we'd be in good shape. But we never got that one basket."

Atlantic City celebrated the win by posing for a team picture.

The Vikings enjoyed the title on several levels.

The championship was their first since the CAL title game began 18 years ago.

Atlantic City had to rally for the win.

But most of all, the victory came against its biggest rival. No matter what the sport, Atlantic City vs. Holy Spirit is an intense contest. The schools' roots are both in Atlantic City. The players grow up knowing each other.

The teams were supposed to play in December, but the game was snowed out.

"It makes it 100 percent more special," Cannon said. "We finally got a chance to play them, and we got it."

Contact Michael McGarry:


Holy Spirit 4 15 11 13 7-50

Atlantic City 6 7 13 17 10-53

HS-Marakos 2 7-12 11, Reimers 1 0-1 2, Persiano 6 5-7 18, Mobley 3 6-6 12, Sacco 1 0-0 3, Bell 1 2-4 4. Totals-14 20-30 50.

AC-Hill 3 0-0 6, Knox 1 1-2 3, Cannon 6 14-20 26, Collins 3 5-8 11, Lopez 1 3-6 5, Reynolds 1 0-2 2. Totals-15 23-38 53.

3-pointers-Persiano, Sacco HS.

Records-Holy Spirit 21-4, A.C. 20-2.

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