By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Scoring was at a premium Friday when the girls basketball teams from Middle Township and Wildwood got together.
So much so that Wildwood was shut out in an entire quarter but still had a chance to tie the game at the end.
But the Lady Warriors missed a couple three-point attempts in the final seconds as Middle hung on for a 32-29 victory.
Middle limited Wildwood star Maddie McCracken to 11 points and conceded only 11 field goals for the game to the Lady Warriors.
“Our defense is getting better,” Middle coach John Leahy said. “A month ago this might’ve have been a game we lose by 10 or 15. I’m really happy with the effort. Our offense just needs to catch up.”
The victory was Middle’s 10th straight. The team’s last loss came on Jan. 8 in a 34-28 defeat to Mainland, the Cape-Atlantic League’s top team.
“I think our team is coming together” Leahy said. “It’s good to know you can win games and still have room to improve.”
Middle (13-4) trailed 11-9 after the first quarter but then held Wildwood — a team that was averaging 54 points per game entering the contest — without a point in the second quarter. The Lady Panthers held a 16-11 halftime edge and never relinquished the lead in the second half.
Kira Sides led all scorers with 16 points. Aubrey Hunter added six points and 11 rebounds.
Middle got the win despite seeing one of its top players, Kate Herlihy, play limited minutes due to illness. In addition, Leahy coached the game after the funeral of his brother, Jim, earlier in the day. Jim passed away after a three-year battle with cancer.
“I think every coach would rather be playing better but all in all we’re moving in the right direction,” Leahy said. “We had a tough week this week, not just me but some of the girls on the team had some things going on, too, and we had some girls sick.
“But I thought our toughness and energy were really good. We’re starting to talk more and our leadership out there was good. We got away with a lot of missed shots and found a way to win against a really good team.”
Leah Benichou hit three three-pointers and added nine points for Wildwood (14-4).