ATLANTIC CITY - Dayshawn Reynolds accurately described Atlantic City High School's victory over St. Augustine Prep on Friday night.
He didn't use the word "win."
"I feel like we survived," the senior guard said. "St. Augustine is very good team. We survived."
Dennis White's layup with four seconds left gave the Vikings boys basketball team a dramatic 47-45 win in a Battle by the Bay game. Reynolds scored all 17 of his points in the second half to spark Atlantic City. Neither team led by more than two points during the final six minutes.
"The kids didn't panic," Vikings coach Gene Allen said. "To a man, everybody thought we were going to make a play and we were fortunate enough to make one and get a layup."
The Battle by the Bay is a showcase event that features some of the state's top teams. Atlantic City (15-1) is ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11, while St. Augustine (14-2) is No. 3. Friday's game had future tournament ramifications. The Vikings likely clinched the top seed in the South Jersey Group IV and Cape-Atlantic League tournaments with the win.
Fans filled Atlantic City's gym for the contest. But the final seconds left many asking after the final buzzer what had just happened.
Both teams had chances to win. Both teams committed turnovers.
With the score tied at 45, St. Augustine forced a turnover. The Hermits drove to the basket with less than 15 seconds to play.
Atlantic City guard Isiah Graves knocked the ball away from behind. Vikings guard Djza Chase picked up the loose ball and flung it down court to center Jahleem Montague.
Montague could have rushed a shot, but he flipped the ball to White on the left side of the basket.
"I wanted to make the right play, and I knew me laying the ball up wasn't the right play because I saw (White)," Montague said.
The 6-foot-5 White then faced a decision.
"I was going to dunk it," White said, "but it was too critical."
White (11 points, six rebounds) went for the sure play and made the layup with four seconds left to give the Vikings a 47-45 lead. St. Augustine heaved a desperation shot at the buzzer that missed. White couldn't even describe afterwards what making the game-winner meant to him.
"It didn't even hit me yet," he said.
Atlantic City struggled offensive in the first half and trailed by five at halftime. The Vikings were 1-for-7 from 3-point range and 7-for-27 from the field in the first two quarters.
Reynolds gave the Atlantic City offense a much-needed boost in the second half. He scored Atlantic City's first six points of the third quarter. Reynolds also sank 3-of-6 3-pointers in the second half.
"I had to be there for my team in the second half," Reynolds said. "I knew I didn't play the best of games in the first half. The fellas were hanging their heads a little bit, so I had to be the senior, step up and get everything back in order."
After the game, all the Hermits could think of was what might have been. St. Augustine made just 17-of-41 shots and 11-of-18 foul shots.
Freshman guard Saeed Nelson came off the bench to spark the Hermits in the second quarter. St. Augustine forward Joe Gatto (eight points, six rebounds) scored back-to-back baskets in the second quarter to give the Hermits a 20-17 lead with 43:45 left before halftime.
St. Augustine led 25-20 at halftime, but the lead should have been larger. The Hermits missed makable shots that could have given them a 12- or even 14-point lead.
"We definitely missed a couple of foul shots and layups," St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio said. "If we come out hot in the third quarter, we could have been up 15 points. Give them the credit. Maybe it was their aggressiveness that caused us to miss those layups. Sometimes it's not meant to be."
Contact Michael McGarry:
St. Augustine Prep 8 17 12 8-45
Atlantic City 15 5 13 14-47
SA-Greenman 2 0-0 4, Sullivan 4 4-6 12, Gatto 4 0-2 8, Rossell 3 2-2 8, Vasturia 0 1-2 1, Nelson 1 0-1 2, Seward 3 4-5 10. Totals-17 11-18 45.
AC-Graves 3 0-0 7, White 5 1-4 11, D. Reynolds 6 2-2 17, Chandler 1 4-4 6, T. Reynolds 1 0-0 2, Montague 0 2-4 2, Thomas 1 0-1 2. Totals-17 9-15 47.
3-pointers-D. Reynolds (3), Graves AC.
Records-A.C. 15-1; S.A. 15-2.