The Atlantic City High School boys basketball team will be back on the bus today.

The Vikings (22-5) will play at 4 p.m. at Cherry Hill East (21-8) for the South Jersey Group IV championship.

It is the Vikings' third straight playoff road game. Fifth-seeded Atlantic City advanced to the final with a 47-44 win at Lenape and a 65-63 victory over Eastern.

"We knew for us to have the opportunity to play for a South Jersey title we'd have to go on the road," Atlantic City coach Gene Allen said Monday. "We know it's going to be difficult, but we're up for the challenge."

The stands at Cherry Hill East will be packed with fans as the second-seeded Cougars are playing in their first sectional final. Cherry Hill is known for its large and raucous student section.

The Vikings shouldn't be intimidated. Atlantic City's biggest asset in the postseason has been its mental toughness. Two of the Vikings' wins came in overtime.

Atlantic City also won't be walking into an unfamiliar gym. The Vikings play there each season in the Cherry Hill East Invitational Showcase Event. Atlantic City beat Rancocas Valley Regional 58-53 on Feb. 19 at Cherry Hill.

"Our guys have played there two or three times in their careers," Allen said. "They've never played in this type of environment (at Cherry Hill), but they're very familiar with the facility."

Allen said the Vikings haven't been worn down by their travels. Atlantic City's depth is one of its strengths. The Vikings have gotten scoring during the playoffs from Kashawn Dunston, Dayshawn Reynolds and Isaiah Graves. Two of the Vikings' top players - Martel Johnson and Jahleem Montague - don't score much at all. Johnson is a heady point guard and the 6-foot-9 Montague is a defensive force.

"We practiced very well (Monday)," Allen said. "I wish it was a game. We really did execute well. They went hard and they're very enthusiastic. I'm comfortable with how the kids are going into this game."

Cherry Hill is known for its accurate perimeter shooting and matchup zone defense.

"We have to guard above the 3-point line," Allen said. "We need to offensive rebound. We need to rotate the ball on offense and attack the gaps in their zone."

This will be Atlantic City's fifth South Jersey final since 2004. The Vikings have won seven South Jersey titles in school history. They won the 2005, 2006 and 2008 sectional championships under Allen.

None of the current Vikings have played in a title game.

"They don't seem to be overwhelmed by the moment," Allen said.

Contact Michael McGarry:


S.J. Group IV boys basketball final

No. 5 Atlantic City (22-5) at No. 2 Cherry Hill East (21-8), 4p.m. today

Radio: 1450 AM

At stake: Winner advances to Thursday's state semifinal against the winner of tonight's Central Jersey title game between Colts Neck and Middletown North.

How Atlantic City got there: Beat Absegami 65-59; Lenape 47-44; Eastern 65-63.

How Cherry Hill East got there: Beat Cherry Hill West 74-48; Toms River North 47-30; Shawnee 52-42.

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