By BRIAN CUNNIFF
The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team has faced some of the best teams from South Jersey, North Jersey and Pennsylvania in non-league games so far this season.
But one of the Crusaders’ biggest tests to date turned out to be a team from their own league.
Wildwood Catholic survived its own free-throw shooting woes to post a 78-73 victory over St. Joseph Wednesday to move into pole position in the race for the Cape-Atlantic United Conference title.
The game was one of the most anticipated on the conference schedule. Both teams are ranked among the top 10 in South Jersey by various media polls.
Wildwood Catholic led for almost the entire game, until St. Joseph rallied in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats taking a two-point lead in the final minute. Jacob Hopping’s two free throws tied the game and St. Joseph couldn’t convert on the final possession of the period to set up the extra session.
Wildwood Catholic then controlled overtime after scoring the first six points of the period. The Crusaders were aided by St. Joseph losing four players to disqualification due to the five-foul limit.
Wildwood Catholic went only 19 for 34 from the foul line through regulation but then sank 11 of 14 in overtime.
Jahlil White poured in 29 points and Taj Thweatt added 20 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots for Wildwood Catholic, which improved to 12-1 overall, 5-0 in the CAL United Conference.
Hopping chipped in 15 points for the Crusaders, getting 11 of them in the fourth quarter and overtime.
St. Joseph (9-2, 2-1) got 34 points from star senior Marcellus Ross.
The two teams are set to meet again on Feb. 8 at Wildwood Catholic.