Coach Gene Allen watched his Atlantic City High School boys basketball team walk the school's hallways the day the Vikings won the South Jersey Group IV title.
The players didn't have their chests puffed out. They didn't seem overly content or happy.
"They were as even-keeled as could be expected," Allen said. "I think they want more. They behaved like they're really not satisfied."
Atlantic City (23-5) can add to what already has been a historic season when it meets Central Jersey champion Middletown North (25-5) at 6 p.m. today in the state Group IV semifinal at Egg Harbor Township.
The winner advances to Sunday's state final at Rutgers University. A victory would give Atlantic City its seventh trip to a state final but its first since 2006. The Vikings' lone state title came in 2005, when they beat Ridgewood 56-42.
Middletown North never has been to a state final. The Monmouth County school is a senior-dominated team.
The Lions rely on accurate outside shooting. They sank seven 3-pointers in their 62-51 Central Jersey championship win over Colts Neck, including three by senior guard Tim Frawley.
The Lions also feature experience at point guard in senior Eric Youncofski. Jason Huelbig is another veteran guard who scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Colts Neck.
"We're concerned about their outside shooting," Allen said. "They're very sound. They like to pack it in defensively and force you to shoot from the outside."
Atlantic City, as it has done all season, will rely on its full-court man-to-man defense. Atlantic City has won 18 of its last 19 games primarily because of its defense. Vikings guard Dayshawn Reynolds is one of the region's best on-the-ball defenders.
Atlantic City also will try to get the ball inside to 6-foot-8 Jahleem Montague and 6-5 Ga-Briel Chandler.
Atlantic City is in the midst of one of the best playoff runs ever by a South Jersey School. The Vikings beat fourth-seeded Lenape, top-seeded Eastern and second-seeded Cherry Hill East - all on the road - to win the sectional title. They are No. 7 in The Press Elite 11.
"We had a light practice (Wednesday) and tried to get some rest," Allen said. "I think we'll be fine."
Tonight's bus ride to Egg Harbor Township will take the Vikings about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Middletown North will have to travel close to two hours.
"We almost feel like it's a home game for us," Allen said. "But with that, we're still focused on our goals and hope to accomplish them (tonight)."
Contact Michael McGarry:
State Group IV semifinal
Atlantic City (23-5) vs. Middletown North (25-5), 6 p.m. today at Egg Harbor Township
Radio: 97.3 FM and 1450 AM
At stake: Winner advances to Sunday's state final at Rutgers University against the winner of today's other semifinal between Elizabeth and Passaic Tech.
How Atlantic City got there: Beat Absegami 65-59; Lenape 47-44; Eastern 65-63; and Cherry Hill East 52-41.
How Middletown North got there: Beat Brick Memorial 67-49; Monroe 59-51; Jackson Memorial 66-50; and Colts Neck 62-51.