By BRIAN CUNNIFF
NORTH WILDWOOD — The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team drew first blood in the race for Cape-Atlantic United Conference supremacy.
The Crusaders used a brilliant second half to turn back Pleasantville, 90-68, in a battle of two of the conference’s better teams.
Junior stars Jahlil White and Taj Thweatt were tremendous for Wildwood Catholic. White shot 14 for 21 from the floor and poured in a game-high 30 points to go with 13 rebounds. Thweatt contributed 29 points on 11-for-16 shooting and posted 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Wildwood Catholic (4-0) trailed, 48-43, early in the third quarter before rallying. The Crusaders finished the period on a 17-6 run to lead 60-54, then started the fourth quarter on a 9-2 surge to swell the advantage to 13 points at 69-56. Pleasantville got no closer.
“It was our energy,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. “I thought we were a little intimidated, honestly, in the first half. There was a lot going (Pleasantville’s) way. They played very well. They were making shots and they were really pressuring us.
“We talked at halftime about growing up. We had a lot of kids on the floor in the second half who haven’t played this kind of environment and they grew up tonight.”
Another junior, Jacob Hopping, made a major impact in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter. He opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a three-pointer, added a tip-in of a teammate’s miss and made all six of his free-throw attempts in the period. He finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“Jacob’s second half was incredible,” DeWeese said. “The first half didn’t go his way but then he came out and had one of the best halves he’s ever played at Wildwood Catholic. His energy and effort were off the charts.”
Jalen Freeman, who played at Wildwood Catholic as a freshman, netted 26 points for Pleasantville (2-1). Sahmir Jones added 23 points.