Dayshawn Reynolds sank a 3-pointer to propel the Atlantic City High School boys basketball team to a first-round overtime win over Absegami last season.
At the time, the basket seemed nothing more than a nice shot that helped the Vikings avoid a first-round upset.
In reality, it began one of the most dominant stretches ever by a local basketball team and was the first of many critical postseason shots made by Reynolds.
The 6-foot-1 senior guard is The Press Player of the Year. He led the Vikings to back-to-back Cape-Atlantic League and state Group IV titles.
"Any team I play for I want to be the leader," Reynolds said. "I know what it takes to win."
Reynolds averaged 10.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists. But his game wasn't about statistics. He didn't have to score to impact a contest. He is one of the state's top defensive players. He scored one point in a CAL playoff win over Holy Spirit and was still one of the best players on the floor because of his defense and unselfish offensive play.
Reynolds' leadership translated into a willingness to take - and mostly make - several big shots during the Vikings playoff run this season.
"He defines the word clutch," Middle Township coach Tom Feraco said.
Reynolds' ability to consistently come through in critical situations mystifies even himself.
"I can't explain it," he said, "but I know when it's time to go, it's time to go."
His clutch shots are some of the most memorable moments in Atlantic City basketball history.
Reynolds' long-range 3-pointer with 37 seconds left in regulation tied Atlantic City's state Group IV final against Linden. The Vikings rallied to win 60-54 in overtime.
Reynolds made four 3-pointers and scored 23 points to lead the Vikings to a 57-51 win over Middle Township in the CAL final.
He sank 3-of-5 3-pointers to help the Vikings rally to beat Southern Regional 61-56 in the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals.
And in the Tournament of Champions quarterfinal, Reynolds scored six of his 14 points in overtime as the Vikings rallied to beat Pt. Pleasant Beach 80-73 in double overtime.
But Reynolds most important shot was probably the 3-pointer against Absegami last season.
Atlantic City had blown a five-point lead in the final 40 seconds of regulation against Absegami. The Vikings trailed by two points in overtime.
Reynolds' 3-pointer gave the Vikings a three-point lead with 1 minute, 55 seconds left in overtime.
If the shot doesn't go in, Atlantic City probably loses and that changes history. Can the Vikings win a state title this season without the momentum from last season's championship?
Instead, Atlantic City beat Absegami 60-59 and neither Reynolds nor his teammates looked back from that point.
The Vikings are currently considered New Jersey's top public school team.
"Dayshawn's type of leadership is rare to find today," Atlantic City coach Gene Allen said. "He's a special athlete and person. I probably won't get a player like that ever again. He takes the responsibility, but he doesn't seek all the attention."
Reynolds' organized basketball career probably ended with Atlantic City's 63-49 loss to St. Joseph Metuchen in the TOC semifinals on March 15.
Reynolds also excelled at wide receiver and defensive back for the Vikings football team. He has verbally committed to play football at Temple University.
But many local basketball observers believe Reynolds - especially because of his tenacious defense - could also be a Division I basketball player. And with an athlete like Reynolds, nothing can ever be counted out.
"I can't leave football," Reynolds said.
How about playing both sports in college?
"That sounds good," Reynolds said with a laugh.
Coach of the Year
Atlantic City's transformation under Allen has been remarkable.
He is The Press Coach of the Year.
The Vikings were 0-4 in state final appearances before Allen took over in 2003. They are 3-1 in state finals, under Allen.
Atlantic City won three South Jersey championships in the 20 years before Allen. The Vikings have won five South Jersey titles, under Allen.
Allen is 224-70 in his 10 seasons.
"He's one of the best coaches in New Jersey," Vikings guard Isiah Graves said. "He yells me at me when I make bad plays. That gets me a little upset. But he wants me to do better. Our whole team is like that. We take what he says and then apply it in the game. He's the best coach I've ever had in my life."
Many of the Vikings seniors played as a sophomores in 2010-11. The Vikings finished 14-12 that season - one of the worst records in school history.
Allen said he grew along with this season's seniors.
"They were learning, and I was still learning," Allen said. "They stuck by me, and I stuck by them. That makes this group very special."
Team of the Year
Atlantic City began the season No. 1 in The Press Elite 11.
The Vikings never relinquished that spot.
Atlantic City finished 30-2 and won its second straight state Group IV title.
But just as important as their victories was how the Vikings won.
The Vikings won with a tenacious man-to-man defense that forced even the most skilled ball handlers into turnovers. Atlantic City was resilient. The Vikings couldn't seem to shoot until they had to make a basket and then seemed to sink every clutch attempt.
Atlantic City trailed Lenape by 10 points in the first quarter of the South Jersey Group IV final. The Vikings trailed East Brunswick by 14 in the first half of the state semifinal. Atlantic City was down 19 to Pt. Pleasant Beach in the Tournament of Champions quarterfinal. The Vikings rallied to win all three games.
"It was a very memorable season," Reynolds said. "Playing with these guys was the best. These guys showed heart all season long, especially when it really mattered."
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