By TOM WILLIAMS
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP- Wildwood Catholic dominated Pleasantville and St. Augustine Prep rallied in the second half to defeat Ocean City in the Cape-Atlantic League’s Boys Final Four at Absegami tonight.
Those results put Wildwood Catholic and The Prep into Saturday’s championship game (2pm) at Stockton University. The Crusaders will be attempting to repeat as CAL champs and win their third title in six years. St. Augustine had won three straight before last season. It will be the first time the two schools have played each other in the championship game.
In the girls championship game, Ocean City will meet Middle Township at noon for the third time in the last four years. The Raiders handled Wildwood Catholic and Middle beat Mainland, the defending champions, which had to play without 6-2 junior Kylee Watson because of an injury.
That means three of the four teams in Saturday’s championship doubleheader will be from Cape May County.
And the OCHS boys (19-4) came a lot closer to making a clean sweep for the county than most people might have expected before losing 72-65.
The Raiders led most of the first half, including a 36-33 lead at halftime. Gannon Brady and Luke Varallo both scored eight points in the first half, Donovan Graham scored seven and Tom Finnegan added six off the bench.
The Prep (21-3) took the lead with an 18-10 advantage in the third quarter as 6-5 Charles Solomon scored seven points and 6-7 Andrew Delaney added six in those eight minutes. St. Augustine built a nine-point lead a couple times but Ocean City managed to get it back down to a one-possession lead.
Solomon finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, 6-6 Matt Delaney added 15 points, Cole Vanderslice 13 and Andrew Delaney scored 11 along with 12 rebounds, three steals and six assists.
Graham and Varallo each scored 14 for the Raiders, with Varallo, the school’s all-time record-holder, hitting four three-pointers. Brady had 12 points, six rebounds, three steals and three assists. Joe Sacco added 11 points, four steals and seven assists.
This was another strong effort in Ocean City’s impressive late-season performances. After beating a red-hot Cedar Creek to win the CAL’s National Conference championship, John Bruno’s team knocked off Millville on the road in the first round of the CAL Tournament, pretty much controlling the game from the start against a team that had been ranked in the South Jersey Top 10 most of the season. Then, tonight, they took the No. 4 team in South Jersey almost to the wire.
Is Bruno surprised by his team’s season? “More than I could have imagined,” he said. “They share the ball and have such a will to win. Nothing seems to rattle them, they just keep working.”
Ocean City will next play on Tuesday against Cherry Hill West in the second game of an NJSIAA Group 3 girl-boy doubleheader in the Dixie Howell Gymnasium.
Wildwood Catholic (24-1), on the other hand, took control of the other semi-final with a 22-11 first quarter and won, 65-49. It was the third time this year the Crusaders had beaten Pleasantville (18-8).
Sophomore DaSean Lopez, a transfer from Middle Township, scored seven points in the first quarter, including a pair of three-pointers. Jahlil White also scored seven in the first eight minutes with Taj Thweatt coming away from the basket to hit a pair of three-pointers in the opening period.
White finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Jacob Hopping also scored 18, including a trio of three-pointers. Thweatt finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks.
Jacob Valeus led Pleasantville with 16 points and eight boards. Sahmir Jones added 15 and Jalen Freeman, who played his freshmen year at Wildwood Catholic, scored 11. Valeus, Jones and Freeman have all scored 1,000 points in their high school careers.
So, the Crusader machine marched on, stretching its winning streak to 19. But head coach Dave DeWeese thinks the best is yet to come.
“Honestly,” he said, “we are not there yet. We have much room to improve. I see progress but I think we can be better.” You can check out the box scores for the two boys semifinals and the CAL Tournament brackets here – http://www.primeevents.net/2019cal.html.