By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher ABSECON — If you are an Atlantic City High School basketball player and miss a layup or a jump shot, chances are you’re going to get a pretty good tongue lashing from coach Gene Allen. But if you don’t give every ounce of energy on the defensive end of the floor, chances are you’re going to have a seat on the bench. The Vikings were anything but smooth on Friday night in a highly anticipated showdown with Cape-Atlantic League American Conference rival Holy Spirit, but rode the intensity provided by a strong defensive effort in the second half to a 56-46 victory to take command in the conference race. Sophomore forward Ray Bethea came up big for the Vikings, scoring 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. Holy Spirit trailed by just five, 35-30, entering the fourth quarter of a defensive struggle that featured a slew of fouls, but Atlantic City extended its lead to eight, 48-40, when Lamar Thomas drove to the basket with 2:50 left. A pair of free throws by Ahmad Biggins pushed the lead to 50-40, and Atlantic City scored a couple of baskets down the stretch to put the game out of reach. Holy Spirit guard C.J. Barnes, left, made his return to the lineup after rehabbing a knee injury suffered last summer. Holy Spirit guard C.J. Barnes, left, made his return to the lineup after rehabbing a knee injury suffered last summer. “We just came in playing Atlantic City defense,” said Thomas, who chipped in with 14 points for the Vikings. “We were trying to get our offensive game rolling, but our defense carried us, as usual. Defense, in that second half, started leading to turnovers and it turned around from there.” Atlantic City began playing more full-court pressure defense in the second half, and getting offensive contributions from Bethea helped the Vikings begin to pull away. “Ray is definitely up-and-coming,” Allen said. “He’s playing great offense; now, if he can just play the other side of the floor, we’d be OK.” The Vikings didn’t need a whole lot on the defensive end, however, as guys such as Harris and Ryan Fader helped keep Jones and Stoll in check for much of the game. Stoll and Barnes each finished with 14 points for the Spartans while Jones added seven. Allen and the Vikings said this could be the type of win that gives them momentum heading into the heart of the conference season. “Anytime you can come in and win against a team like this, on their floor, it’s definitely a momentum builder,” Allen said. “So hopefully we can build on this, and keep going.” “Everybody better watch out, because we are coming for everybody,” added Thomas. Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]