Marlon Hargis opened the game by posting up and scoring inside.
He ended the first half with a three-pointer jumper with a hand in his face at the buzzer.
St. Augustine’s senior swingman also handled the basketball against pressure, buried his free throws and threw down a pair of dunks in the fourth quarter.
It was a statement game for Hargis in a statement win for St. Augustine, as the Hermits beat rival Atlantic City, 71-61, Tuesday night in a Cape-Atlantic League American Division clash of top-six teams.
“I thought Marlon established himself as a legitimate college prospect,” St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio said after the victory before a near-capacity crowd in the Hermits’ gymnasium.
Hargis tied his career high with 31 points as St. Augustine (14-2 overall, 7-1 in the division), the No. 6 team in the Inquirer Top 25, likely locked up the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Non-Public A tournament.
Senior guard Travis Stoll added 12 points and junior guard Jordan Kendrick scored all 12 of his points in the second half as the Hermits avenged a 64-55 loss to the Vikings on Dec. 23.
“They had beat us the last time,” Hargis said. “We lost to them, lost to Wildwood Catholic. People were saying we were down. We wanted to make a statement, and I feel like we did that.”
Senior guard Ray Bethea scored 19 of his 23 in the second half and senior swingman Nah’Sir Morgan added 14 with a pair of spectacular dunks for No. 4 Atlantic City (12-2, 7-1).
The loss likely cost the Vikings the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament, which could mean a visit to top-ranked Shawnee for the sectional title game if form holds in the earlier rounds.
“We didn’t match their intensity,” Atlantic City coach Gene Allen said. “They were much more intense than us. They got every loose ball. They played a much better game than we did.”
The 6-foot-7 Hargis unfurled a Player of the Year-caliber performance. He was 8 for 18 from the field, including 3 for 6 from three-point range. He was 12 for 14 from the foul line.
— Philip Anastasia (@PhilAnastasia) January 31, 2018
Hargis scored 12 in the fourth quarter, as the Hermits were holding off the Vikings’ last charge. He threw down both of his dunks in the fourth quarter, taking a feed from Stoll and converting a three-point play for a 63-56 lead with 1 minute, 57 seconds to play.
“He is taking over the game at times,” Rodio said of Hargis.
Hargis was a starter as a sophomore and junior for teams that featured former Players of the Year such as Sa’eed Nelson and Justyn Mutts. A complementary player earlier in his career, the Mays Landing resident has been thrust into the role of the Hermits’ go-to guy as a senior.
“He played with a lot of great players,” Rodio said. “Now this year, it’s him, and he had to figure it out. He’s starting to really emerge.”
Hargis has been overshadowed a bit through the first half of the season by Cape-Atlantic League stars such as Bethea and Wildwood Catholic’s Caleb Fields.
The same has been true of the Hermits as a team in relation to the Vikings and Crusaders.
But things changed Tuesday night, as Hargis displayed his versatility and the Hermits regained their position as a team to watch in the upcoming CAL tourney as well as the state tourney.
“We wanted to re-establish ourselves,” Rodio said. “We were down, 14-2 is not down. But we were a little bit of a forgotten team.
“But we’ve got a chance. If we put it together, we’ve got a chance.”
Atlantic City 11 12 17 21 – 61
St. Augustine 15 19 15 22 – 71
AC: Ray Bethea 23, NahSir Morgan 14, Nazim Derry 8, Ramon Rodriguez 1, Zion Teague 6, Zaire Montague 9.
SA: Jordan Kendrick 12, Kevin Foreman 5, Marlon Hargis 31, Charles Solomon 3, Travis Stoll 12, N’Kem Ota 1, Matt Delaney 2, Cole Vanderslice 5.