By Phil Anastasia
It's rare for one guard to have a big offensive game against Atlantic City's trademark tough defense.
It's twice as unusual for two guards to have their way against the Vikings in a pressure-packed game.
"I can't remember the last time two guards combined for 55 points against us," Atlantic City coach Gene Allen said after his team dropped an 80-76 decision in overtime to Timber Creek on Sunday.
Allen's math was off but his point was on the mark.
Timber Creek senior guards Randy Bell and Caleb Bowser combined for 59 points to lead the Chargers to the early-season signature victory in a clash of Top 10 teams at the Ocean City PBA Tipoff Weekend showcase.
The 6-foot-4 Bell scored 32 and the 6-foot-3 Bowser added 27 ,including 21 after halftime, for Timber Creek (1-1), the No. 7 team in The Inquirer preseason Top 25.
Senior guard Ahmad Biggins scored 18 and senior forward Jamir Prevard added 16 for No. 2 Atlantic City (1-1).
"This was a huge win for our program," Timber Creek coach Rich Bolds said. "Coming off a loss to Eastern (on opening night on Friday), I wanted to see how these kids were going to respond.
"They played the way they can play. They showed what kind of team they are. They just need to play this way every night."
The fast-paced game between two of South Jersey's top teams was played before a large crowd in Ocean City's gymnasium off Sixth Street, in the shadow of the lit-up Ferris Wheel on Gillian's Wonderland Pier.
Bell was 10-for-20 from the field, including 2-for-4 from behind the arc. He also was 10-for-13 from the foul line, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished five assists.
"I thought No. 5 (Bell) looked like the best player in South Jersey tonight," Allen said.
Bowser was 10-for-13 from the field, 7-for-8 after halftime. He was 5-for-6 from the foul line after the third quarter.
"We knew we needed to step up," Bell said. "Coach (Bolds) was telling us how tough Atlantic City was and we knew they were ranked No. 2. We wanted to make a point."
Bowser said the Chargers needed to match the Vikings' intensity and physical play.
"Coach said they were lik a city team," Bowser said of Atlantic City. "We knew they were going to be up on us, tough on us. We had to fight through that."
Said Bolds: "That was the key, matching their physicality."
Timber Creek also got strong work off the bench from junior forward Dylan Johnson, who scored four points with four rebounds and a block in 28 minutes.
Atlantic City scored nine unanswered points -- two three-point jumpers by Biggins and a three-point play by senior forward Ryan Fader -- to take a 66-61 lead with three minutes, 49 seconds remaining in regulation.
Timber Creek battled back as Bowser made a pair of buckets and Bell converted a pair of free throws.
The Chargers led 74-70 after Bowser layup off a Bell feed with 0:25 on the clock, but the Vikings forced overtime as Biggins made a pair of free throws and sophomore forward Ray Bethea converted a driving layup at the 0:05 mark.
"I thought we were in good shape going into overtime," Allen said. "But they (Timber Creek) were fabulous. They wanted it more than we did."
Timber Creek scored the first six points of overtime as Bell converted a put-back and hit a free throw and Bowser went 3-for-4 from the line.
That was more than enough cushion to withstand a late charge from Atlantic City, which was missing Prevard and senior guard Lamar Thomas (10 points, five assists), both of whom had fouled out.
"I think we got caught reading our press clippings," Allen said. "But give them credit. Those two guards, they were tough."
Timber Creek 21 17 17 19 6 -- 80
Atlantic City 16 18 21 19 2 -- 76
TC: Randy Bell 32, Caleb Bowser 27, Donovon Spencer 1, Denzel Washington 4, Maurice Murray 7, Ricky Martin 3, Dylan Johnson 4, Isaiah Sanders 2.
AC: Lamar Thomas 10, Ray Bethea 6, Aiskon Centino 12, Munir Harris 8, Ryan Fader 6, Jamir Prevard 16, Ahmad Biggins 18.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com