PISCATAWAY - Dayshawn Reynolds glanced at the scoreboard at Rutgers Athletic Center and knew as the leader of the Atlantic City High School boys basketball team that it was time for him to shoot the ball.
Atlantic City trailed Linden by three points in the state Group IV title game Sunday. There was less than 1 minute left. If Atlantic City didn't score, the Vikings' hopes of back-to-back state titles would vanish.
Reynolds, a senior guard, dribbled up court, pulled up from NBA range and sank a 3-pointer to tie the game.
The Vikings rallied from that point to beat Linden 60-54 in overtime and win their second straight state title. Isiah Graves (18 points) sparked the Vikings in the extra period with two long-range 3-pointers.
"It was one of those moments," Reynolds said of his 3-pointer that tied the game at 48. "They count on me the most.
"I'd rather it all fall on me than anyone else."
The state title is the third in Atlantic City boys basketball history, with the other championship having been won in 2005. Atlantic City (29-1) advances to the Tournament of Champions. The Vikings will play state Group I winner Pt. Pleasant Beach in a TOC quarterfinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
"This is the best feeling in the world," Reynolds said. "It was gut-wrenching at the end, but everybody came through."
Reynolds' and Graves' 3-pointers drew roars from the crowd. Fans of both teams stood in the final minutes of regulation and during the overtime.
The game was filled with tension and clutch shots by both teams. There were four lead changes in overtime. Atlantic City squandered a five-point lead with 3 minutes, 11 seconds left in regulation.
"Linden was a great team," Graves said. "The tempo was crazy. Fans were screaming after every made basket. There was a lot going through a lot of people's minds. We hit big shots at the end. It was crucial."
Graves' 3-pointers were both from NBA range, which is 23 feet, 9 inches. The high school 3-pointer is 19-9.
"Coach (Gene Allen) yells me all the time to step in," Graves said. "But if I'm open where I'm at, I'll shoot it."
The first one gave the Vikings a 51-50 lead with 3:32 seconds left in the game. The second put Atlantic City up 54-52 with 1:33 left. The Vikings never trailed again.
"The 3s I shot came from confidence," Graves said. "I'm confident in my shot."
Graves does not have a picture-perfect shot. He winds up from the side and lets the ball go. Reynolds, who does not have perfect form himself, said he makes fun of Graves' shot every day at practice. But Graves' overtime 3-pointers hit nothing but the net.
Once Graves gave the Vikings the overtime lead, Atlantic City clinched the victory with clutch foul shooting from center Jahleem Montague (12 points, two blocks) and reserve guard Dzja Chase, who each sank two foul shots in the final 1:31.
The game was physical from the start with an emphasis on defense. The 6-8 Montague guarded Linden 6-8 standout center Quadri Moore. Montague held Moore, who is an NCAA Division I prospect, to nine points. Montague was familiar with Moore's game because the two play on the same summer AAU team.
"He outweighs me by about 70 pounds," Montague said. "This is a game where you have to be aggressive. I was."
Linden sat in a zone that frustrated the Vikings. The Tigers deflected countless Atlantic City passes.
Linden grabbed the lead and the momentum with an 8-0 run to end the first half with the Tigers up 23-19.
Atlantic City was plagued by foul trouble throughout the game. Montague and forward Ga-briel Chandler spent considerable time in both halves on the bench with fouls.
But the Vikings rallied in the third quarter behind the strong inside play of 6-5 forward Dennis White (16 points). The Vikings also forced Linden into seven third-quarter turnovers and converted several of the miscues into points.
Sunday's win continued one of the most remarkable stretches ever by a local basketball team.
Atlantic City is now 50-3 in its last 53 games with two state championships. The Vikings are 18-1 in elimination games the past two seasons, including the Cape-Atlantic League and state tournaments.
The Vikings are the first team since Linden (2006 and 2007) to repeat as Group IV champions. Atlantic City is the first South Jersey school to repeat as Group IV champion since Shawnee (1995 and 1996).
"They were never flustered," Allen said. "This is why this group is so special. I'll probably never have another group like this again."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Atlantic City 14 5 14 15 12-60
Linden 1 12 6 19 6-54
AC- Totals 22 10-15 60.
L-Totals 17 18-25 54.