VENTNOR - The Atlantic City High School girls basketball team stayed close to state power Trenton Central with Tiana Cannon.
Without her, the Vikings quickly faded.
Trenton wore Atlantic City down with its pressure defense and won 51-31 in a Ventnor City Girls Showcase game Saturday night.
Cannon scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but she left with 1 minute, 9 seconds left in the third quarter with an injured Achilles' heel. She did not return.
The Vikings trailed 35-26 when Cannon left. They scored just five points the rest of the way.
"We're going to work on that," Vikings coach Laurie Carter said. "Any team that has just one player can be stopped at any given time."
The game at the Ventnor Educational Community Complex was billed as a major test for both teams. Both entered the contest undefeated. Atlantic City (7-1) is No. 8 in The Press' Elite 11 ranking of teams that compete for South Jersey titles. Trenton Central (8-0) is one of the marquee names in New Jersey girls basketball. The Tornadoes have won the Central Jersey Group IV title three of the past four seasons.
The difference in the game was Trenton's defense and depth.
"Mentally, we were stressed throughout the game," Carter said, "and by the third and fourth quarters it showed on everybody's face out there."
Cannon was the only Viking capable of scoring consistently.
The 5-foot-10 senior scored on drives and post moves. She sank 7-of-13 shots. The rest of the Vikings were a combined 6-for-31 from the field.
"All season, we've had equal scoring," Carter said. "Today, it didn't work out for us. They have awesome defense. The pressure never let up."
Trenton forced Atlantic City into 23 turnovers and converted those into 19 points. Trenton's Dayon twins - Kara and Kyra - harassed Atlantic City ballhandlers all over the court. Kara had seven steals and Kyra five.
"Pressure busts pipes and floods the gym," Trenton coach Reggie Murray said. "The pressure we put on them flooded the gym."
The Tornadoes turned the game in their favor with a strong finish to the first half.
Trenton outscored Atlantic City 10-2 in the final 1:36 to turn a tie game into a 25-17 halftime lead.
Monaee Fields and Azayria Godbold each scored four points during the spurt. Fields capped the run when she scored on a putback with three seconds left.
Cannon did her best to rally the Vikings in the third quarter. She either scored or assisted on eight straight Atlantic City baskets during a stretch that spanned from 21.4 seconds left in the first quarter to 5:09 left in the third.
Cannon was injured when she drove to the basket and fell. She returned to the bench, but Carter did not want to put her back in with Trenton ahead by double digits.
"It wasn't like it was sprained ankle," Carter said. "I'd rather just hold her out and let our trainer see her."
Both teams said they will be the better for Saturday's game.
"This is what I want," Murray said. "We have to be battle-tested. To go out and play venues like this where it's almost a state-tournament atmosphere is good for us."
Meanwhile, Atlantic City got a sample of the pressure defense that so many of the state's top teams play.
"This showed us what it takes to go to the next level," Carter said.
Contact Michael McGarry:
Trenton Central 12 13 12 14 - 51
Atlantic City 9 8 9 5 - 31
T-Kara Dayon 3 0-0 6, Kyra Dayon 4 4-6 12, Harris 3 0-2 6, Hines 5 2-4 12, Fields 3 4-4 10, Godbold 2 1-7 5. Totals-20 11-23 51.
A-Knox 0 0-2 0, Cannon 7 2-2 16, Collins 2 0-0 5, Lopez 3 0-1 7, Humphreys 1 0-0 2, Johnson 0 0-2 0, Freedman 0 1-2 1. Totals-13 3-9 31.
3-pointers-Collins, Lopez A.
Records-Trenton Central 8-0, Atlantic City 7-1.