OCEAN CITY - Tashad Reynolds and Kevin Allen played small roles for the Atlantic City High School boys basketball team last season.
This season, they are starters and they made the play that made the difference against Wildwood Catholic on Saturday night.
Allen scored a key basket in the final minute as the Vikings staved off a Wildwood Catholic rally and won 44-41 in an Ocean County PBA Tipoff Weekend game at Ocean City High School.
Atlantic City (2-0) built its lead with stifling man-to-man defense. Wildwood Catholic (1-1) made just 10-of-30 shots and committed 23 turnovers.
Atlantic City led 37-34 with less than two minutes to play. But Wildwood Catholic had the momentum. The Crusaders had scored four straight points and Vikings standout Isiah Graves had fouled out.
Reynolds, a senior guard, then penetrated and passed to Allen for layup. He made the shot and was fouled. Allen, a junior forward, sank the free throw to put the Vikings up 40-34 with 1 minute, 28 seconds left.
"We kind of fell apart," Reynolds said. "We needed to make a play. I was a little shaky coming into the game. It's my first time starting. But I came out and did what I had to do."
Still, Atlantic City couldn't relax. Wildwood Catholic reserve Malcolm Darby scored off a steal to cut Atlantic City's lead to 42-39 with 11.2 seconds left.
Atlantic City sophomore Jamir Prevard then sank two foul shots with six seconds left to push the lead back to five and preserve the win.
Atlantic City also got a solid game from another role player last year - sophomore Lamar Thomas. He scored nine points on 4-of-9 from the field.
Fans nearly filled Ocean City High School's gym to watch the weekend's most anticipated matchup.
Atlantic City, the two-time defending state Group IV champion, is No. 4 in The Press Elite 11. Wildwood Catholic, No. 8 in the Elite 11, returned all five starters from a team that won 23 games last season.
Both teams struggled to score in the first half. Atlantic City's man-to-man defense forced Wildwood Catholic into 11 turnovers. The Crusaders sank just 3-of-12 shots in the first half and did not have a basket in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders matchup zone defense slowed the Vikings. Atlantic City made just 1-of-8 3-point attempts. The Vikings finished the game 19-of-53 from the floor.
But when you play defense like Atlantic City did, offensive statistics don't matter. Wildwood Catholic standout Ed McWade, who already has more than 1,000 career points, finished with just three points.
Vikings forward Dennis White, who guarded McWade, scored eight points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
"We did a nice job of taking away their strengths," Atlantic City coach Gene Allen said.
Contact Michael McGarry:
Wildwood Cath. 11 3 9 18-41
Atlantic City 10 12 8 14-44
WC-Cook 1 5-8 8, Robertson 4 8-14 17, Freeman 2 4-4 8, E. McWade 1 1-4 3, T. Smith 1 0-0 3, Darby 1 0-0 2. Totals-10 18-30 41.
AC-Graves 4 0-2 8, Allen 3 1-1 7, White 4 0-4 8, Reynolds 0 1-2 1, Thomas 4 1-3 9, Prevard 2 2-2 7, Nolan 1 0-0 2, Chayee 1 0-0 2. Totals-19 5-14 44.
3-pointers-Cook, Robertson, T. Smith WC; Prevard AC.
Records-Wildwood Catholic 0-1, Atlantic City 2-0.