Atlantic City Again a Team to Watch in..

Atlantic City Again a Team to Watch in.. Atlantic City Again a Team to Watch in South Jersey Boys' Basketball

One of the teams to watch every year in boys' basketball is Atlantic City and this year is no different. The Vikings are the defending South Jersey Group 4 champions and are again a team that will make a serious challenge for the No. 1 spot in South Jersey.

Don't be fooled by the Vikings early 5-2 record to begin the week. The second loss was 69-53 defeat to defending Tournament of Champions champ St. Anthony of Jersey City.

In that game Atlantic City got 24 points from senior guard Luis Colon and 18 points and eight rebounds from 6-foot-5 junior Ray Bethea.

Among the top juniors in South Jersey, Bethea has had some big games already this year. He had 25 points in a 71-65 win over a tough Wildwood Catholic squad.

The other loss was 63-48 to Westtown, PA. That is considered the top team in Southeastern PA and no shortage of Division I prospects. Westtown is let by 6-11 center Mohammed Bamba and 6-8 junior Cam Reddish.

On Saturday Atlantic City will face a major test when the Vikings visit last year and this season's No. 1 ranked team St. Augustine. That will be one of the top local games in the first month of the season.

It is a continuation of a difficult schedule for the Vikings, which is by design. Coach Gene Allen always wants the Vikings to be tested to the hilt and he doesn't mind a few losses if it prepares his team for the state tournament.

The Vikings have a history of coming on as the season winds down. Under Allen, Atlantic City has won Group 4 state titles in 2005, 2012 and 2013.

The Vikings advanced to the Group 4 state championship, losing to Linden, 54-45 in the championship. Atlantic City won the South Jersey Group 4 title after being just the No. 5 seed. Then again, that's not unusual for Atlantic City to have a lower seed. The Vikings routinely play the type of difficult schedule that doesn't lend to being a high seed, but it pays off in the end. Last year in the South Jersey portion of the tournament, Atlantic City had two major nail-biters, beating Cherry Hill West, 44-40 in the second round and then winning 49-47 at No. 1 seeded Washington Township. The Vikings then beat Cherokee, 50-41 in the final.

Like last year Atlantic City hasn't begun to hit its peak at this juncture. The game against St. Augustine, whether the Vikings win or lose, will be excellent for their growth. And come to think of it, the game will have the same impact on St. Augustine, another team that understands what it takes to play deep into March.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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