By Phil Anastasia
TOMS RIVER, N.J. -- They've become a basketball team that specializes in slow starts, in furious finishes, in dramatic victories.
But this was something special for Atlantic City.
Down 19 midway in the third quarter, Atlantic City rallied for an 80-73 double-overtime victory over Point Pleasant Beach in the quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions on Wednesday night.
Junior Isiah Graves scored 22 and seniors Dayshawn Reynolds, Gabriel Chandler and Jah-leem Montague played major roles as well as Atlantic City (30-1) advanced to Friday's semifinals against St. Joseph of Metuchen at 6 p.m. at Monmouth University.
"We were down 20 and I looked at my teammates and said, 'We're not losing this game,'" said Montague, who generated 16 points with seven rebounds and fueled the rally in the third quarter.
Said Graves: "Coach (Gene Allen) said we came too far to give up now."
Atlantic City, the Group 4 champion and No. 3 seed, met its match in Point Pleasant Beach, the Group 1 champion and No. 6 seed.
The Garnets Gulls, led by junior guard Matt Farrell (23 points) and senior forward Riley Calzonetti (20), opened the game with a 12-0 run and seemed in command midway in the third quarter before a large crowd at Pine Belt Arena at Toms River North High School.
But Atlantic City roared back behind its trademark pressure and some great work from Reynolds, their senior leader.
"It's all on the kids," Allen said of the incredible comeback.
Atlantic City was down 39-20 after Point Pleasant's Dom Uhl hit a a three-point jumperr midway in the third quarter.
The Vikings cut the deficit to 47-36 after three quarers, then opened the fourth quarter with a 19-3 surge to take a 55-50 lead on a basket by Reynolds off a steal.
Point Pleasant rallied behind Farrell, who tied the game at 57-57 with a three-pointer at 2:22 and again at 59-59 with a layup at 1:20.
Atlantic City seemed in command in the first overtime with a six-point lead. But Point Pleasant rallied behind Calzonetti, who made two free throws to tie the score at 70-70 with 0:03 on the clock and force the second overtime.
Calzonetti, the son of former Paul VI star Mark Calzonetti, fouled out on the first possession of the second overtime.
Atlantic City pulled away as Chandler, Graves and Montague hit key free throws and Point Pleasant missed a series of outside shots.
Atlantic City is 51-3 in its last 54 games, with two of the losses to St. Anthony of Jersey City. The Vikings also are 19-1 in elimination games the last two seasons.
They rallied from a 10-0 deficit against Lenape in the South Jersey Group 4 final and from a 14-point deficit in the state semifinals against East Brunswick.
But this was a remarkable comeback, even by Atlantic City's standards.
Point Pleasant Beach 17 17 13 12 11 3 -- 73
Atlantic City 12 8 16 23 11 10 -- 80
PPB: Matt Farrell 23, Riley Calzonetti 20, Noah Yates 8, Dominique Uhl 11, PJ Kinneavy 7, Jeff Bryant 4.
AC: Isiah Graves 22, Dennis White 8, Dayshawn Reynolds 16, Gabriel Chandler 17, Jah-leem Montague 16, Djza Chase 3.
Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.