By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ABSECON — If you wanted to see a dunk-fest on Sunday night, Holy Spirit High School was the place to be. Nah’Sir “Flash” Morgan jammed home the game’s first two points off the opening tip, later sent the crowd into a frenzy with an acrobatic windmill dunk, and teammate Ray Bethea Jr. added a few of his own as Atlantic City blitzed Camden Catholic early before winning 55-43 in one of the final games of the Seagull Classic. Holy Spirit rallied to beat Pleasantville, 77-67, in the final game of the weekend to close out an outstanding two days of high school basketball.
The tournament was making its return after a nearly two-decades hiatus, and Morgan said he and his Vikings teammates wanted to put on a show in front of the standing-room-only crowd.
“Coach (Gene) Allen said this game was going to be like a playoff game and he wanted us to come out fired up, so I had to set the tone from the beginning of the game, so I made sure I did it with a dunk. This is a big win. It tells us a lot. We have people who still aren’t playing — our transfer from Vineland — so we have to implement him into the offense and defense so we can come together as one,” said Morgan, a 6-foot-4 forward who, despite his basketball talent, is committed to playing football in college. “That’s what I do, I just like to get the crowd into the game and make them feel like they are watching something that’s worth paying for. I listen to the crowd sometimes, and they tell me to put on a show, so that’s what I did.”
“He’s something special,” Allen said of Morgan, one of several star seniors the Vikings have on their roster. “I haven’t had (a player like him) in a while. Everybody feeds off him. Anytime him or Ray play like that, it definitely fires us up. I thought we played really well as a team in the first half — not so much in the second half, but we’re still a work in progress. We’ve only played five games.”
Atlantic City (5-0) raced out to a 14-1 lead, and the Irish didn’t score their first field goal until Patrick Corbett hit a runner with 2:35 left in the first quarter. The Vikings continued to pour it on, and went into halftime with a 32-14 lead. Camden Catholic got going in the second half, outscoring Atlantic City 12-7 in the third quarter and trimming the lead down to 39-28 with an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter, but Morgan’s windmill dunk made it 43-30 and effectively ended any chances of a comeback.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized kids — I’ve kind of expected it,” Allen said of the Vikings’ lackluster third quarter. “Basketball is a game of runs, and they only outscored us 12-7 (in the third quarter). To beat a quality program like that, this is a good win for us.”
Morgan filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots, while Bethea finished up with a game-high 22 points while adding nine rebounds and three assists. Ramon Rodriguez chipped in four points and eight rebounds, while Nazim Derry added nine points and seven boards. Babatunde Ajike led the Irish with 16 points, and Uche Okafor added eight points and eight rebounds.
“Their screens are crazy, the come out of nowhere,” Morgan said of trying to defend the Irish. “We just had to talk (on defense) and sometimes switch. I played help-side defense, and I think that’s one of my best qualities on the court, and that’s how I got all the blocks.”
As the final few seconds ticked away, the crowd chanted for Morgan to finish off the game with another dunk, but he politely declined and dribbled the time off the clock.
“I was going to tear Holy Spirit’s rim down, but I chose not to,” Morgan joked. “I chose to be a good sport and not dunk it.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays