ATLANTIC CITY — The Southern Regional High School girls basketball team stole the show as the opening act at the Battle by the Bay on Saturday.
Jacqueline Ward sank two foul shots with 2.7 seconds left in overtime as the Rams rallied from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Atlantic City 59-57.
“I had to keep my composure,” Ward said. “People were cheering and yelling. I had to make both. I didn’t want to see another overtime.”
Ward, Southern’s only senior, finished with 17 points and seven assists. She also sank 3 of 4 free throws in the final 48.4 seconds of regulation. Junior forward Kaela Curtin sparked the comeback with 18 points and seven rebounds.
With the win, Southern (11-8) clinched a spot in the Shore Conference Tournament.
“We wanted this win,” Curtin said. “We needed it.”
The game tipped off at 11 a.m. and was the first of six to be played at the Battle by the Bay on Saturday.
The three-day showcase event began in 1995 and annually features some of the top high school programs from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and other East Coast states.
Atlantic City (10-6) and Southern are both South Jersey Group IV contenders.
The Vikings seemed poised for an easy win. They led 46-33 with 7 minutes, 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Freshman guard Sanai Garrison-Macon scored 12 points and had three assists for Atlantic City. Ciani Redd-Howard was a force inside for the Vikings with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
But Curtin was at her best in the fourth quarter. She started the Rams’ comeback when she made a 3-pointer with 7:30 left in regulation. That basket also started a stretch in which Curtin scored nine of Southern’s next 11 points.
Still, the Rams needed some more big shots.
Sam Del Rio (13 points) sank a 3-pointer with 1:21 left in regulation to tie the game at 52.
The Rams then had a chance to win in regulation. Ward made two foul shots with 48.4 seconds left to tie the game and then made 1 of 2 with 17.8 left to give Southern a 55-54 lead.
Atlantic City forced overtime when Redd-Howard made 1 of 2 foul shots with 5 seconds left.
Southern had to rally again in overtime. Ward made two foul shots to tie the game at 57. She was then fouled on a drive to the basket and made both foul shots with 2.7 seconds left to give the Rams the win.
Atlantic City missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“This atmosphere was awesome,” Curtin said. “We were a little bit scared coming out. I’m not going to lie. But we knew if we worked hard, we could win.”
Southern;14 8 11 22 4—59
Atlantic City;16 12 16 11 2—57
SR — De Rio 13, Ward 17, Mattner 2, Curtin 18, Frangipani 9
AC — Brestle 8, Garrison-Macon 12, Robertson 2, Redd-Howard 13, Canty 2, Suarez 5, Davis 6, Hasan 9