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Middle Township erases 16-point deficit, stuns Atlantic City in Cape-Atlantic League Tournament semifinals

Michael Zarfati scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half of Middle Township's 56-50 win over Atlantic City in the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament semifinal basketball game played at Millville High School in Millville, New Jersey on Wednesday, February 14, 2024. Kevin Emmons/South Jersey Sports Zone

MILLVILLE - Middle Township High School senior Michael Zarfati and his teammates felt confused at halftime.

The top-seeded Panthers trailed Atlantic City by 16 points at intermission in the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament semifinals at Millville High School on Wednesday night. The Vikings used an 11-0 run in the second quarter to own a 30-14 lead at halftime.

The feeling was unprecedented for a program undefeated against South Jersey competition this season.

"It was definitely weird," Zarfati said. "It hasn't happened a lot this year. Our coach says adversity brings out character. We had to fight through adversity. ... We didn't know what was going on. We knew we had to stay together because we knew for sure we were going to come back and win the game. We knew we weren't done. We had to cut all the arguing out. We had to play together as a team and realize that we're a family and we'll get through this together. That's it."

Middle Township used a 17-3 run in the third quarter and outscored fourth-seeded Atlantic City, 20-9, in the fourth quarter to pull out a 56-50 win to reach the CAL Tournament final. The Panthers will play third-seeded Mainland in the championship round at Egg Harbor Township on Saturday at 12 pm.

"They're kids. Sometimes I have to remember they're not pros, they're high school kids," Middle Township coach LaMarr Greer said. "Sometimes high school kids have to get hit in the mouth, they have to feel a lot of pressure. Then they start responding and doing what we do every day in practice.

"We're battle-tested. Our schedule does this for us. We stay calm and we stay cool. We're lucky these kids have been playing together forever. They come together instead of falling apart."

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