Nothing seems to rattle the Atlantic City High School boys basketball team.
Vikings fans are upset that Atlantic City did not receive one of the top two seeds and a first-round bye in the Tournament of Champions.
Atlantic City coach Gene Allen is perturbed. The players aren’t caught up in the controversy. Third-seeded Atlantic City (29-1) meets sixth-seeded Point Pleasant Beach (28-3) at 8 p.m. today at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. The winner advances to play second-seeded St. Joseph-Metuchen (26-4) in the TOC semifinals 6 p.m. Friday at Monmouth University in West Long Branch.
“We don’t know how the whole seeding thing goes,” Atlantic City senior guard Dayshawn Reynolds said. “We just take it game by game. We play (tonight), so that’s how it’s going to be. We’re aiming to win the whole thing, so whatever it takes, that’s what we’ll do.”
The TOC consists of the six teams that won state titles. Atlantic City is the Group IV champion, while Pt. Pleasant Beach is the Group I winner. A committee of past and current athletic directors, former officials of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and media members seeds the TOC.
The debate before the field was seeded was whether Atlantic City or St. Joseph-Metuchen should get the No. 2 seed. St. Joseph dropped two of three games to East Brunswick. Atlantic City beat East Brunswick 51-49 in the state Group IV semifinals.
St. Joe and Atlantic City had one other common opponent — St. Augustine Prep. St. Joe beat the Hermits 80-39 in the South Jersey Non-Public A semifinals. Atlantic City beat the Hermits 47-45 on Feb. 1.
“I’m upset,” Allen said. “I thought we were disrespected. I’m using it as a teachable lesson that you can do all the right things, but sometimes it doesn’t work out to your advantage. “
But Allen knows his team better than anyone.
“The kids don’t give a darn,” he said with a laugh.
Atlantic City can’t afford to get too caught up in the seeding controversy. Point Pleasant Beach is a talented team. In 2004, St. Augustine (26-3 at the time) received the No. 2 seed ahead of an undefeated Lenape. A furor ensued but third-seeded Lenape then lost to the No. 6 seed Bloomfield Tech.
“Do you pout (about the seeding) or be Atlantic City strong and move forward?” Allen said. “We’re going to be Atlantic City strong. The kids really don’t care.”
The Garnet Gulls beat Paulsboro 67-48 in the state semifinals. Atlantic City beat Paulsboro 58-48 on Feb. 17. Point Pleasant Beach moved the ball smartly against Paulsboro. Guard P.J. Kineavy sank four 3-pointers in the first quarter. Matt Farrell is one of the top point guards in the Shore Conference. Dom Uhl, a 6-foot-8 junior who came to Point Pleasant from Germany, is a Division I college prospect.
Point Pleasant Beach also should have a home-court advantage. The school is located about 13 miles from the Pine Belt Arena. But the Vikings consistently have played in unfriendly gyms the past two seasons.
“Whether it’s home or away, it doesn’t matter to us,” Reynolds said. “We’re coming to play regardless. But it should be a nice environment —a nice gym to play in.”
The TOC is considered wide open because two-time defending champion and perennial power St. Anthony lost to top-seed Roselle Catholic in the state Non-Public B final.
Only one local boys team —the 1993 Middle Township Panthers — has reached a TOC final. Only two South Jersey teams — 1992 Shawnee and 2000 Camden — have won the TOC.
Reynolds said he doesn’t expect the Vikings to have a letdown after emotional wins over East Brunswick last Wednesday and Linden (60-54 in overtime in Sunday’s state final).
The Vikings, like the other state champions, have dealt with perks of victories since they won the title Sunday, but Reynolds said that also hasn’t been a distraction.
“The guys are pretty focused,” Reynolds said. “All we’ve been talking about is winning the TOC — not what we’ve (already) won.”
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