Atlantic City knocked off throne by Southern buzzer-beater

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KevinAllen Bill LeConey/Atlantic City's Kevin Allen missed this free throw with 7.6 seconds left, setting up Jake Logue's game-winning play. ATLANTIC CITY - All great things come to an end – but they don’t have to end quite this painfully.

Atlantic City's two-year reign as state Group IV champions came to a shocking and dramatic conclusion Thursday, as the Vikings lost a heartbreaker to Southern Regional, 57-56, in a South Jersey Group IV quarterfinal at ACHS.

Jake Logue went the length of the court off a missed free throw and scored at the buzzer to give the seventh-seeded Rams a berth in the sectional semifinal against Cherokee.

“They played hard and they made the plays at the end,” Atlantic City coach Gene Allen said of the Rams, who avenged a loss to Atlantic City in last year’s sectional quarterfinals. “They deserve to win.”

Isiah Graves had 20 points and Allen added 15 for the second-seeded Vikings (19-7). Southern’s sensational senior forward Mike Gesicki had 20 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, and ended the game as the leading scorer in school history.

Atlantic City, the two-time defending state champions had rallied from a five-point deficit with four minutes left, using an 8-0 run to take a three-point lead with 1:08 to play.

But  Southern tied it on a 3-point play with 53.5 seconds left by Gesicki, who became the school’s all-time leading scorer by converting the free throw. Then, on Atlantic City’s last possession, Gesicki fouled Atlantic City’s Kevin Allen on a put-back attempt underneath the basket with 7.6 seconds left, drawing his fifth foul.

Gesicki, who is headed to Penn State to play football next fall, left the game to thunderous applause from the large contingent of Southern fans who made the trip down from Manahawkin.

Allen made the first free throw to break the tie, but missed the back end of the one-and-one, setting up Logue's coast-to-coast heroics.

“I just released the ball wrong,” Allen said. “I was good from the free throw line the whole season, but the one I needed, I just lost it for us.”

Still, there was no excuse for letting Logue go the length of the court. Right?

“Everybody thought that I was going to make it,” Allen said, “and when I missed, everybody was shocked, including myself, and we let him break out. There were four defenders and we let him break out, all the way to the end of the rim.”

Gene Allen said the Vikings were prepared to call a timeout and set up their defense if Allen made the second free throw. But there was no time to prepare for the unthinkable.

“It’s bad defense on our part,” the coach said. “It’s not supposed to happen. Give (Logue) the credit for making the play, but we allowed him to make the play, and I take the responsibility for that. I should have done a better job of putting our kids in a position to stop the ball, but I didn’t.”

It was a heartbreaking end to a surprising season for the Vikings, who lost three seniors from last year’s state championship team but still went head-to-head with Holy Spirit for the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference championship.

They reached the CAL title game but were routed by Wildwood Catholic. They earned the second seed in the state tournament, advancing with a first-round win over Vineland, only to lose in the most painful fashion on Thursday.

They will have to regroup again next year, losing starters Graves, Dennis White and Tashad Reynolds. “We’re losing a few seniors, and those players are like my brothers,” Kevin Allen said. “That’s going to kill us.”

“It’s absolutely the end of an era,” Gene Allen said. "It's been a great run, but it's over.”

ACSouthern1 Bill LeConey/Atlantic City's Jamir Prevard gets the ball inside to Kevin Allen. ACteam Bill LeConey/Atlantic City coach Gene Allen talks to his team during a timeout late in Thursday's playoff game. ACSouthern2 Bill LeConey/A Southern player knocks the ball away from Atlantic City's Isiah Graves. White Bill LeConey/Atlantic City senior Dennis White leaves the court for the last time as a Viking after Thursday's playoff loss.

 


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