WILDWOOD - Ga-Briel Chandler saw his foul shot hit the front of the rim Saturday afternoon.
The Atlantic City High School forward leaned back and to the side in an attempt to coax the ball over the rim.
Chandler's free throw with 0.4 seconds left gave the Vikings boys basketball team a 38-37 win over Archbishop Wood of Pennsylvania in a Boardwalk Basketball Classic game at the Wildwoods Convention Center.
"When I saw the ball hit the front of the rim, I was like, 'Whoa, go in, go in,' " Chandler said.
Wood fouled Chandler as he attempted to tip in an Atlantic City miss. Vikings guard Isaiah Graves had driven the lane moments before and attempted an off-balanced shot.
The Wood player's slap on Chandler's arm could be heard around the convention center.
"I heard a whistle and I was like, 'Thank you,' " Chandler said.
Chandler, a 6-foot-5 senior, averaged 17.2 points in Atlantic City's first four games, but he struggled Saturday, scoring just two points before his winning free throw.
"I didn't have the energy I had in the other games, but I wanted to get my team the win," he said. "I was thinking too much instead of playing my game."
After giving Atlantic City the lead, Chandler missed the second free throw on purpose and time ran out giving the Vikings the win.
The game was one of the most anticipated contests at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic on Saturday. The classic continues Wednesday and runs through Dec. 30 with more than 50 boys and girls teams competing for championships in several four-team brackets.
Atlantic City (5-0) is No. 1 in The Press Elite 11. Wood (3-3) is projected to be one of the top teams in the Philadelphia Catholic League this season. Division I colleges Lafayette and Binghampton have offered Wood 6-5 swingman Pat Smith a scholarship.
Wood had its chances to win in the final minutes. Wood forward Joe Lostracco scored on an inside move with 28 seconds left to tie the game at 37. He was fouled but he missed the foul shot that would have given Wood the lead. Graves rebounded for Atlantic City to set up the Vikings' final possession.
Atlantic City appeared headed for an easy win in the first half. The Vikings played outstanding man-to-man defense holding Wood without a basket for 11:48 in the first half.
Dennis White, a 6-5 junior, came off the bench to spark the Atlantic City offense, scoring nine of his team-high 15 points in the first half. White finished the game 6-of-9 from the field, and he also grabbed six rebounds.
The Vikings led 17-5 with 4:50 left in the second quarter. But while Atlantic City shutdown Smith, who finished 0-for-7 from the field, Wood guard Cody Fitzpatrick hit two long-range 3-pointers late in the first half to get Wood back into the game.
"I think we started reading our press clippings," Allen said. "We weren't as disciplined as we normally are, nor were we as unselfish as I expect."
Atlantic City won despite shooting 14-of-40 from the field and missing all nine of its 3-point attempts. Atlantic City also committed 23 turnovers - one more than Wood.
While it may have not been an artistic success, Wood is the type of physical team the Vikings will have to beat in March to defend their South Jersey and state Group IV titles.
Contact Michael McGarry:
Archbishop Wood 5 12 12 8-37
Atlantic City 9 10 10 9-38
AW-Rush 1 3-4 6, Fitzpatrick 3 0-0 9, Smith 0 4-4 4, Connaghan 0 2-2 2, Lostracco 5 2-3 12, Neher 1 2-4 4. Totals-10 13-17 37.
AC-Graves 1 2-2 4, D. Reynolds 2 1-2 5, Montague 4 2-4 10, Chandler 1 1-3 3, White 6 3-5 15, Chase 0 1-3 1. Totals-14 10-20 38.
3-pointers-Fitzpatrick (3), Rush AW.
Records-A.W. 3-3; A.C. 5-0.