By BRIAN CUNNIFF
NORTH WILDWOOD — The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team is right where it wants to be.
Wednesday’s 82-42 victory over of Middle Township moved the Crusaders to 14-1 on the season.
Considering the difficult schedule the team has played, count coach Dave DeWeese among those happy with the results to this point.
“We’re thrilled with where we are,” DeWeese said. “To be 14-1 after 15 games, we would’ve taken that in a minute if we knew that’s where we’d be right now, so we’re very happy with that. But we know down the road there’s going to be challenges ahead. We have to continue to improve if we want to get some big wins down the stretch.”
The victory moved the Crusaders closer to the Cape-Atlantic United Conference title. They’re 7-0 in conference games and, thanks to Pleasantville’s win over St. Joseph Wednesday, are at least two games ahead of all CAL United challengers.
Wildwood Catholic is also in line to earn the coveted top seed for the South Jersey Non-Public B playoffs. The Crusaders entered Wednesday’s game about 80 power points ahead of No. 2 Ranney, one of the best teams in the state. Seeding is based on power-point standings through teams’ first 16 games. Wildwood Catholic’s 16th game is this weekend against powerful Cherokee.
“If we can beat Cherokee, then I think it’ll wrap (the top seed) up for us,” DeWeese said. “If we lose, it will be close. So that’s a huge game for us.”
Speaking of huge games, the Crusaders got just that out of Taj Thweatt against Middle. After a rather quiet first half in which he scored just eight points, the 6-7 junior exploded for 20 after halftime to finish with a game-high 28. He had five dunks.
“The first half, I played bad,” admitted Thweatt, who also blocked six shots. “The second half I needed to play harder and take my time on offense. Then we started to control the game.”
Ahead 30-23 midway through the second quarter, Wildwood Catholic ended the half on a 10-3 run before outscoring Middle by 23-8 in the third quarter.
“We were sluggish at the start,” DeWeese said. “We didn’t come out with the intensity we needed at the defensive end. In the second quarter we started to get in gear and then I thought we really asserted ourselves on the defensive end of the floor in the third quarter. That allowed us to take control of the game.”
Jahlil White added 18 points for Wildwood Catholic, which had 10 different players score.
Marcus Pierce scored 11 points for Middle (5-10).