By TOM WILLIAMS
The Atlantic City boys scored more points tonight than any team in the post-season history of the Cape-Atlantic League. And Wildwood Catholic rallied for a 12-point victory by shooting 63 percent in the second half.
Atlantic City’s 93-69 win over Pleasantville and Catholic’s 61-53 victory over St. Augustine moved the Vikings (22-3) and the Crusaders (23-2) into the CAL championship game Saturday afternoon on the Gerry Matthews Court at Stockton University.
The boys title game will be a re-match of the 2014 championship game when Wildwood Catholic won the crown in its only appearance in the finale. It will also be a re-match of the regular season game between the Vikings and Crusaders, won, 60-59, by Atlantic City.
In tonight’s opener at Absegami, St. Augustine ran out to a 27-18 lead in the first half by limiting the Crusaders to 29 percent shooting and holding Caleb Fields, Catholic’s leading scorer this season, without a field goal. But Fields, whose strong drives to the basket put great pressure on a defense, came alive in the second half, scoring 14 points – 10 from the foul line – and the Crusaders took the lead on the strength of a 17-5 advantage in the third quarter.
Fields and sophomore Jahlil White led Wildwood Catholic, which won its sixth straight, with 17 points each. Sophomore Taj Thweatt added 11 and Charles Fields 10. White finished the game making eight of his nine shots and tossing three assists. Thweatt had seven rebounds and three blocks.
Marlin Hargis, who struggled with foul trouble and eventually fouled out, led all scorers with 20 points along with five rebounds for St. Augustine. Travis Stoll had 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists.
Atlantic City ran out to a 9-0 lead in the second semifinal only to see Pleasantville, led by 11 straight points by Jacob Valeus, storm back to lead, 15-14. But the Vikings scored the final 12 points of the period – six by Nazim Derry – to lead by 12 after one quarter. The game would never get any closer. It was Atlantic City’s ninth straight win. The Vikings’ 93 points is the most ever scored by a team in the CAL tournament or playoffs, breaking the record of 83 set by Pleasantville in 2016. The 54 points Atlantic City scored in the first half was the most points in a post-season half, topping the 50 points scored by St. Augustine in 2002.
Ray Bethea led four double figure scorers for Atlantic City with 28 points. Bethea, who is committed to Howard University, increased his career total to 1,544 points, moving past Edgar Allen (ACHS Class of 1968) into third place all-time among Atlantic City players. He now trails only Lou Roe (1,804) and Walt Montford (1.646) in Atlantic City history. Bethea also had six rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Ramon Rodrigues had a double-double for ACHS – 15 points and 13 rebounds – along with three steals and four assists. Flash Morgan had 13 points, including two thunderous dunks, plus eight boards and three blocks. Derry finished with 12 points and three assists. And Zion Teague scored seven points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots.
Divine Anderson, who scored his 1,000th point earlier this year, led Pleasantville, which had won six straight, with 26 points. Valeus had 22 points and 10 rebounds. And Sahmir Jones got 14 points and five steals.
On Saturday at Stockton the girls championship (Mainland vs Ocean City) will tip off at noon with the Vikings and Crusaders taking to the court at 2 p.m.
FREE THROWS: Tonight’s results end St. Augustine’s three-year hold on the CAL championship. The Prep defeated Atlantic City the last two years and beat Holy Spirit for the championship in 2015 …. Atlantic City will be appearing in the championship game for 21st time in the 27 years the CAL has played a championship. The Vikings have won nine – Gene Allen has won four, the late Mo Griffin two and Joe Fussner three …. complete box scores for the boys and girls semifinals are available at http://www.primeevents.net/calbasketballx.html where you can also follow the championship doubleheader Saturday with the live box scores ….