PISCATAWAY — The team concept extended well beyond the bench on Sunday for the Atlantic City High School boys basketball team in its state Group IV title game against Elizabeth.
Five buses filled with fans made the trip from the school’s campus on Albany Avenue up the Garden State Parkway to the Rutgers Athletic Center on the campus of Rutgers University.
Atlantic City won the game, picking up the second state title in the school’s storied history.
The Vikings’ fans outperformed the Minutemen faithful.
And the Atlantic City cheerleaders put on a show for the fans at the RAC.
“We’re all one big family,” Atlantic City junior Roderick Sims said. “We have a saying at Atlantic City High School. It’s ‘FAMILY — Forget about me, I love you.’ That’s what family is.”
Sims took the trip to Rutgers with his Godmother, Ydearia Ely, a vice principal at the high school.
“I couldn’t go to sleep last night just knowing that we were going to be here today,” Sims said.
Seniors Matt Monroe, Liam Marshall, Brett Kennedy and Eric Germer stood out among Atlantic City’s massive cheering section.
Monroe, Marshall, Kennedy and Germer were some of the team’s loudest fans, but what really stood out about the crew was their body paint, which scrawled out “ACHS” on their chests.
Kennedy, a standout baseball player at the school, was playing the role of the “H” on Sunday.
Kennedy and company weren’t nervous when a pair of turnovers and some sloppy play gave Elizabeth a 33-28 lead early in the third quarter.
“Wait until the fourth quarter,” Kennedy said. “We’re going to take over in the fourth quarter.”
Kennedy was right.
The Vikings outscored Elizabeth 15-7 during the last 6 minutes, 25 seconds of the final quarter to secure the win.
The team and its cheering section seemed to gain momentum with every big play down the stretch.
“They don’t even compare,” Germer said of Elizabeth’s fan section. “I haven’t heard a good cheer from them all night.”
Atlantic City had more fans in attendance at Rutgers than it does at many of its home games, a fact not lost on the players.
“We definitely felt them,” Atlantic City point guard Martel Johnson said. “They were big today. The atmosphere was great.
“The whole city was behind us,” Johnson added. “We wanted to make them proud and get this win today and we were able to do that today.”
City Councilman Marty Small, who was himself a standout basketball player at the high school in the early 1990s, said he wouldn’t have missed the game for anything.
“These kids epitomize the heart of Atlantic City,” Small said. “We’re a very resilient town and we’re very proud of these kids. There is a lot of negative attention brought on the violence of the youth, but this shows the positives of the city.
“This is a shining example of what Atlantic City youth is all about.”
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