By Phil Anastasia
Isiah Graves and the Atlantic City boys' basketball team are rounding into late-season form.
Graves, a senior guard and veteran of the Vikings' drives to the last two Group 4 state titles, scored 22 points with seven rebounds and four assists as Atlantic City beat St. Augustine Prep 65-60 on Thursday night in the semifinals of the Cape-Atlantic League tournament.
Senior guard Tashad Reynolds added a career-high 22 points for Atlantic City (18-6), the No. 3 seed, before a near-cacpty crowd in the first game of a doubleheader at Hammonton High School.
Atlantic City will meet the the second game between Holy Spirit and Wildwood Catholic in the CAL title game Saturday at Stockton College.
Atlantic City is the two-time defending CAL tournament champion as well as the two-time defending Group 4 state champion. The Vikings now are 21-2 in elimination games in the last three seasons, including a 19-0 mark in CAL tournament and Group 4 state tourney games.
"I'm a big-atmosphere dude," Graves said. "I love playing in games like this. When you've won two state titles in a row, you're not afraid of the big stage."
Atlantic City (18-6) has been less consistent this season than in the last two seasons, and the Vikings finished second to Holy Spirit in the CAL American race.
But the Vikings looked like a championship contender for most of the game against St. Augustine (21-4), the No. 2 seed.
AC got a big lift from Reynolds, a 5-foot-8 athlete who was inserted in the starting lineup to match up with St. Augustine sophomore guard Sa'eed Nelson, a slick playmaker.
But Reynolds also supplied a lot of offense, playing "the best game of his career," according to AC coach Gene Allen.
"I was happy with how we played until the 3:35 mark," Allen said of his team's struggles down the stretch.
Behind by 11 early in the fourth quarter, St. Augustine rallied behind Nelson (18 points, four assists), senior Nate Segal (16 points) and frosh Justyn Mutts (10 points, 5 rebounds).
"He's going to make me take early retirement," Allen said of Nelson.
Atlantic City 13 13 21 18 -- 65
St. Augustine 11 12 16 21 -- 60
AC: Isiah Graves 22, Kevin Allen 7, Dennis White 4, Lamar Thomas 7, Tashad Reynolds 22, Jamir Prevard 3.
SA: Sa'eed Nelson 18, Kevin Kennedy 4, Nate Segal 16, Mike Vasturia 8, Justyn Mutts 10, Brian Seward 4.
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