By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD — The Wildwood Catholic High School basketball team needed to make at least one more play.
The Crusaders were never able to.
A ferocious comeback attempt against one of South Jersey’s historically successful programs fell short in the final minute as Wildwood Catholic lost, 57-51, to Camden in the Andrew Alameno Memorial Showcase Game at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic.
“We made lot of mistakes in the last minute,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. “We have to learn from that so we’re able to do a better job to win these kind of games.”
The game was one of the most anticipated of the early portion of the high school basketball season, with both teams ranked among the top five teams in South Jersey according to multiple media polls. A large crowd of perhaps more than 1,000 people filled the West Hall at the Wildwoods Convention Center. Early returns of the video stream tied to the 98.7 The Coast radio broadcast indicated an audience of approximately 3500 people watching on computers, tablets, smartphones or other devices.
Camden (4-0), thanks to a large advantage in rebounding and a sizzling 57.7 percent shooting effort from the floor, raced out to a lead as large as 14 points on its way to a 32-21 halftime lead.
The Panthers led by nine after three quarters but an 8-0 Wildwood Catholic run to start the fourth quarter, capped by a long Jacob Hopping three-pointer, cut the advantage to one at 47-46. Camden later went up by five, but Wildwood Catholic got the deficit back to two points at 53-51. But the Crusaders twice turned the ball over and were never able to get a shot in the air to tie or take the lead. Wildwood Catholic later turned the ball over twice and failed to secure what should have been an easy defensive rebound on another possession in the final minute.
“Some of it’s lack of experience because our first five games were all 20-point games so we really haven’t been in this position yet,” DeWeese said. “We practice it, but it’s not the same as doing it against that kind of team and in this kind of atmosphere.”
Taquon Woodley tallied 19 points, 11 rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals to lead Camden. Ethan Tarte (11) and Jerome Brewer (10) also scored in double figures.
Taj Thweatt had 16 points and nine rebounds and Jacob Hopping added 10 points and four steals for Wildwood Catholic.