The first dunk made the statement.

The second one stamped an exclamation point at the end.

St. Augustine Prep was so dominant Saturday night in a 83-50 victory over Don Bosco Prep in the Non-Public A state title game that few individual moments stood out.

Well, except for senior guard Sa'eed Nelson's 50-footer at the halftime buzzer that sent the Hermits into the locker room at Toms River North with a 49-23 edge.

But before Nelson made his miracle shot, and before the Hermits spent most of the second half guarding an insurmountable lead, junior Justyn Mutts rocked the Pine Belt Arena with a pair of dunks.

Both plays came in transition.

Both came off passes from Nelson.

And both sent the Richland Rowdies - St. Augustine's raucous 400-man-strong student section - into a frenzy of celebration.

"I know," the 6-foot-7 Mutts said, "that really got the crowd into it."

It's rare for thunderous dunks to get overlooked in the course of a championship game.

But it was somewhat typical for Mutts, who has quietly taken his game to another level in the second half of the season and helped the Hermits to another level as a team, too.

St. Augustine (30-1) will play Linden in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions Thursday at 7:30 p.m. back at the Pine Belt Arena.

As the No. 2 seed, St. Augustine received a first-round bye along with top-seeded St. Anthony (30-0).

"He's matured," St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio said of Mutts' play over the second half of the season. "He's growing up."

It's been an evenful junior season for Mutts. In late January, Mutts and his family took a couple of steps toward the athlete transferring to St. Benedict's Prep, a non-NJSIAA school in Newark with a national-caliber baskertball program.

The news rocked the Hermits, who were 13-0 at the time. Mutts sat out two games as meetings were held with the athlete, members of his family and St. Augustine officials, and his father Jarret Mutts issued a statement asking for "privacy."

Ultimately, Mutts decided to stay at St. Augustine. And any speculation that the odd timing of interest in St. Benedict's would affect his performance - or negatively impact team chemsitry - over the remainder of the season seems laughable given the Hermits' play.

St. Augustine is 15-1 since Mutts returned to the team. The lone loss was by 52-39 to St. Anthony in a game in which Mutts probably was the best player on the floor.

In fact, since sitting out two games, here's what Mutts has done:

Scored 21 points with seven blocks in his first game back, a 25-point win over Lower Cape May.

Blocked nine shots in a 60-53 win over Atlantic City in a battle of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Inquirer's Top 25.

Generated 20 points with 11 rebounds and seven blocks in the loss to St. Anthony, which was ranked No. 4 in the nation by USA Today at the time.

Scored nine points with 13 rebounds and six blocks in another victory over Atlantic City in the Cape-Atlantic League title game.

Scored 23 in the Hermits' first playoff game, a 74-35 win over Bishop Ahr.

Scored 26 with a pair of thunderous dunks in a rout of Christian Brothers Academy in the Non-Public South A semifinals.

Scored 21 with another pair of resounding dunks in Saturday night's rout of North Jersey Non-Public A champion Don Bosco.

"I'm just more focused," Mutts said of his play since the St. Benedict's situation. "I'm playing for my teammates. They're supporting me. I'm supporting them."

Rodio said Mutts has a chance to be a "big-time" college player. Mutts has offers from Monmouth, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Virginia Union but has begun to draw interest from programs such as Temple and St. Joseph's.

"He has to keep improving. We all do," Rodio said. "But he's been getting better and better, just maturing."

@PhilAnastasia