The stirring second-half comebacks have become such a routine part of Atlantic City's post-season this year, the players have almost stopped trying to find new, creative ways to describe them.
"I don't know, we just play good in the second half," senior guard Kayshawn Dunston said. "We just come together as a team. They're (opponent) tired. We get our second wind and come out with a W."
Believe it folks, Atlantic City's comeback win over Ewing Wednesday night was a lot more exciting than the hot-handed, cool-headed Dunston made it sound.
Martel Johnson sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime for Atlantic City and Dunston buried two of his 3-pointers in OT to carry the fourth-seeded Vikings to 68-65 win over fifth-seeded Ewing in the NJSIAA/ShopRite Tournament of Champions quarterfinals at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
Dunston scored a game-high 23 points and Jahleem Montague and Gabriel Chandler scored 10 apiece for Atlantic City (25-5), which will take on top-seeded and defending champion St. Anthony in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday at the Rutgers Athletic Center. Ewing (26-7) got 21 points from senior forward David Azoroh, 18 from Dontae Jones and 13 from Tyquan Crews.
Atlantic City advanced to the T of C by edging Elizabeth, 53-47, in Sunday's Group 4 final with a 15-7 spurt in the game's final 6:29. The Vikings needed a 40-25 second half to defeat Middletown North in the Group 4 semifinals, and had earlier comeback tournament wins against Eastern, Lenape and Absegami.
"In the second half we like to play as a team," Dunston said. "First half we had jitters, and second half the jitters are gone and we come together."
Atlantic City had actually carried a 41-35 lead into the fourth period against Ewing, but saw it fade against the tough interior play of the 6-5 Azoroh. He opened the quarter with two strong moves in the paint and finished with eight points that quarter.
Atlantic City led, 50-46, when Azoroh converted a pass by Isaiah York to trigger a 7-0 move that York capped on a three-point play for a 53-50 Ewing lead with 1:41 remaining.
Montague scored on a putback with 1:02 to play, but Ewing answered with a free throw by Crews and two by York for a 56-52 edge. Dunston buried a 3-pointer to cut Atlantic City's deficit to one with 14.3 seconds left, but Ewing raised the lead to three on an open layup by Ron Valentine off a long inbound pass from Jones.
Ewing built a 65-60 lead in overtime before Dunston struck with two straight 3-pointers for a 66-65 lead with 31 seconds to go. Chandler sank two free throws eight seconds later and Ewing missed a 3-point attempt with 1.4 seconds remaining.
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS