By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — There’s something about going into the Cape May County Technical High School gymnasium that gives the Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team trouble.
For the second time in three seasons, the heavily favored Crusaders struggled on their fellow Cape-Atlantic National Conference foe’s home floor.
Except this time, Wildwood Catholic fought off Cape Tech’s upset bid.
The Crusaders led for nearly all of the second half but never truly put the Hawks away until the final minute in what finished as a 49-41 victory Thursday.
“We think we’re better than everybody else,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said about his team. “We think we just have to show up.”
Cape May Tech (3-3) had the game tied at 20-20 following a Josh Wright three-pointer and Aidan Hofmann basket on back-to-back possessions late in the second quarter. Jacob Hopping’s three-pointer in the final 20 seconds gave Wildwood Catholic a 23-20 lead at the break. Wright then netted nine points in the third quarter to keep Tech within striking distance at just a six-point deficit at 38-32 going into the final period.
Wildwood Catholic eventually went up by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter before settling for the eight-point win.
“We stunk,” DeWeese said bluntly. “We looked unprepared.”
Wildwood Catholic was forced into a lot of lineup shuffling throughout the game. Taj Thweatt and David Zarfati each battled foul trouble throughout, with Thweatt fouling out with seven minutes to play. And Jahlil White played most of the fourth quarter with an apparent minor left leg injury.
White led Wildwood Catholic with 16 points. Thweatt and Hopping each added 11.
Wright poured in 28 points to lead Cape May Tech in the loss.
The Hawks were dealt a blow when starter Eddie Saddler was forced to leave the game with a calf injury after scoring a basket late in the third quarter.
“I think we rebounded the ball well even though they were bigger than us,” Wright said. “Some of it was stamina. Eddie Saddler went out after he cramped up and we didn’t have enough stamina to stay in it.”
Two seasons ago, Cape May Tech beat Wildwood Catholic, 67-66, in its home gym. The result was considered one of the biggest upsets in the recent history of Cape May County high school basketball.
On Thursday, the Crusaders did just enough to prevent history from repeating itself.