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Atlantic City turns back Spirit to set up CAL title rematch

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HAMMONTON - The Atlantic City High School boys basketball team is going to the Cape-Atlantic League championship game - again.

For the second straight year the Vikings will face the Middle Township Panthers for the CAL title, Saturday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m. at Richard Stockton College (on 97.3 ESPN). The match-up is set after the Vikings dominated the Holy Spirit Spartans 47-35 in a CAL semifinal played at Hammonton High School on Tuesday night.

"We are excited about it," Atlantic City head coach Gene Allen said after the win. "Middle is a great club; they are a fantastic program with a fantastic coach."

Middle was a 51-40 winner over St. Augustine Prep in double overtime in the other semifinal Tuesday.

This is the second year of the CAL playoffs. This year's tournament featured eight teams in the field, but the Final Four was a duplicate of last year’s semi-final round, and the same two teams will play for the championship on Saturday.

Atlantic City and Middle met back on Jan. 3 in Atlantic City, a game the Vikings dominated, 58-39, with Dennis White leading the way with 19 points.

Speaking of White, he was at it again on Tuesday, scoring 14 points for the Vikings, including three powerful dunks to set the tone for Atlantic City.

"I thought Dennis White played fabulous," said Allen. “He has been our unsung hero for this team, and (Jah-leem) Montague is coming on at the right time."

Senior Jah-leem Montague had a couple of dunks of his own en route to a 14-point, 12-rebound night for the Vikings.

Atlantic City used pressure defense, forcing 25 Holy Spirit turnovers to help spark a 15-0 run at the end of the first quarter that put the game out of reach early. Atlantic City led 19-4 after the first quarter, and Holy Spirit was never really close after that.

"We really were very concerned about playing these guys," explained Allen. "They are a very talented team with an excellent coach and, to be honest, in some areas, they have more talent then we do. We needed to come out and play with intensity and try to turn them over, and we were able to do that. When we can get turnovers and easy baskets, it seems to ignite our whole team, particularly on the defensive end."

And now it’s on to a rematch of last year’s title game, a 40-37 win by Atlantic City. This time Middle Twp. will have revenge on its mind, and Atlantic City is well aware.

"They are similar to us, without the size we have," Allen said of the Panthers. "They play very hard and run their sets very well, but we'll be prepared and we'll be ready for them."


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