By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

ATLANTIC CITY — Three things of note happened on Friday night at Atlantic City High School — Mainland’s sophomore point guard, Kasey Bretones, continued her coming out party as one of South Jersey’s best young players; Mustangs coach Scott Betson recorded win No. 200 of his career; and the Stangs cruised to another victory. 

Just another day in the life of the best team in the Cape-Atlantic League. 

Mainland used a 14-5 blitz early in the second quarter to roll out to a 25-9 lead over the host Vikings, and that deficit was simply too much for Atlantic City to overcome. The Mustangs — who got knocked around earlier in the week by Paul VI, suffering just their second loss of the season — were in control throughout the second half and posted a 51-27 win, a much more convincing win than the 55-51 victory they posted over A.C. earlier this season. 

“We needed this. Paul VI took it to us the other night, they were really good,” Betson said. “Atlantic City is a unique challenge because of their size and their guard play. I just really liked the way that we helped defensively today. It was really different (from the first time we played them). They were two totally different games, the tempo was different — this game was more of a slow, walk-it-up kind of a game. It wasn’t fast, sped up or out of control. I thought we did a better job this time of taking care of the basketball. We missed a bunch of shots early, but I kept telling them that when you’re in good spots defensively, that doesn’t really hurt you that badly. I thought we defended and rebounded really well today. 

“Atlantic City is always going to be super physical, so if you don’t come ready for that you’re going to be in for a long night,” he added. “I like the toughness that we showed. It’s a credit to how physical and tough (Atlantic City) is.”

Even though the Mustangs (18-2, 9-0 CAL American) missed some shots in the first quarter, they showed the type of hustle and grit that they’ve become known for, and a much-more-aggressive Bretones took over in the second quarter, along with her mentor, senior guard Camryn Dirkes. That duo combined for 13 of Mainland’s 17 points in the quarter, as the Mustangs carried a 28-15 lead into halftime. 

“My coaches have been telling me to shoot first and pass second, because I’m not one to take every single shot. I like to get my teammates involved,” Bretones said. “So, just being more aggressive, I guess, has gotten me going more. Even defensively, because getting a basket gets me hyped to get a stop on defense. These past few games have been pretty good.”

Bretones’ driving layup in the second quarter pushed Mainland’s lead out to 25-9, but Atlantic City (9-9, 7-2 CAL American) made a nice little run right before halftime, shaving the lead down to 28-15. The Vikings got as close as 33-21 when Sanai Garrison-Macon found Quanirah Montague in the paint late in the third quarter, but moments later a drive by Bretones gave Mainland a 14-point lead, 35-21. The Mustangs started the fourth quarter with an inside bucket by Kaitlyn Boggs and a driving layup from Ava Mazur, and the lead swelled to 39-23. Atlantic City never recovered. 

“We knew it was going to be a tough one and especially after that Paul VI game we wanted to come out here and get our revenge. We were very excited and we’ve been playing well,” Bretones said. “We want to keep focusing on playing defense and boxing out, because when we’re getting our rebounds we can go. That’s our best offense. We’re really going to be dialing in on defense.”

Bretones has been an understudy of sorts to Dirkes, a four-year starter who helped lead Mainland to its only state championship in program history when she was just a freshman. Dirkes also is a four-year starter in soccer and track, so she has plenty of big-game experience that Bretones can draw upon. 

“I definitely take my cues from her,” Bretones said. “She knows when to settle me down if I’m too frazzled. Following her lead from watching her last year and this year, and in previous years, I just know to stay composed, when it’s right to go to the basket and when I should pull back out.”

Betson said he’s thrilled his sophomore is beginning to understand the talent she has to become a more consistent scoring threat along with Dirkes and the Mazur twins, Ava and Bella, another pair of sophomores.  

“I know it’s a weird thing to say, but we really have two point guards. The biggest evolution for (Kasey) is just being much more aggressive and taking the ball to the rim,” Betson said. “One of the takeaways from the Paul VI game was, in that second half, she was just fearless going to the basket. I told her that’s going to be the expectation from now on, you have to play that way, and she did that tonight. Everyone who watches her knows (her potential) is there, she just has to let it rip, and she’s been doing that the past couple of games.”

What’s next: Mainland hosts Oakcrest on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Atlantic City travels to Vineland on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sullyglorydays@gmail.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays