After two disappointing losses last week, coach Travis Amstutz of the Vineland High School boys basketball team spoke to the Fighting Clan about doing something special with the rest of their season.
"They took it to heart," Amstutz said.
Boy, did they ever.
The Fighting Clan got its biggest win in years when it stunned Atlantic City 66-63 Monday night.
Vineland (9-11) took a two-game losing streak into the game. The Vikings (12-4) are the two-time defending Cape-Atlantic League and state Group IV champion. Atlantic City is ranked No. 5 in The Press Elite 11. The Vikings beat Vineland 75-34 on Jan. 14 at Atlantic City.
"They key was our mindset," Amstutz said. "We weren't hesitant. We attacked them. I don't know. We just weren't scared of them."
The Fighting Clan led by as many as seven in the fourth quarter. The Vikings cut Vineland's lead to one point twice in the final minute. Both times Shaheed Black of Vineland sank a pair of free throws to push the lead back to three points. Atlantic City's Isiah Graves missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Vineland got balanced scoring. Jola Babalola led with 16 points, while Black scored 15. Steve Tobolski contributed 10 points. Eddie Thomas just missed double figures with nine points. Lamar Thomas led Atlantic City with 16, while Graves scored 14.
Vineland lost to Holy Spirit by 34 and to Bridgeton by 12 last week.
On Monday, the Vineland freshmen and junior varsity teams also beat Atlantic City.
"When it came time (for the varsity game), I was like, 'It's our turn to win,' " Amsutz said. "We had a positive attitude."
The defeat opens up the CAL American Division race. Atlantic City still controls its own destiny, but the Vikings play two key division games against Millville on Wednesday and Saturday.
Vineland hopes to build on the win.
"Atlantic City is the gold standard," Amstutz said. "I was happy just to be in the game. It's been a while since we've played them well. To pull one out is a tribute to our guys."
Contact Michael McGarry:
AC 11 16 18 18-63
Vineland 17 15 20 14-66
AC-Reynolds 2 4-5 9, Allen 4 1-6 10, Thomas 6 2-2 16, White 3 3-4 9, Graves 5 3-4 14, Prevard 1 0-0 3, Wimbish 1 0-0 2. Totals-22 13-21 63.
V-Thomas 4 0-0 9, Babalola 7 2-4 16, Smith 2 0-1 4, Tobolski 4 2-2 10, Ruiz 3 1-1 7, Porter 2 0-0 5, Black 5 5-5 15. Totals-27 10-13 66.
3-pointers-Graves, Reynolds, Allen, Prevard, L. Thomas (2) AC; E. Thomas, Porter V.
Records-Vineland 9-11, AC 12-4.