By BRIAN CUNNIFF
ERMA – The Lower Cape May Regional High School boys basketball team came at Cape May Tech like a locomotive in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game, turning a 12-point deficit into a two-point lead with less than 10 seconds left.
But with one flick of his left wrist, Josh Wright blasted that locomotive right off its tracks.
Wright, a senior guard for the Hawks, knocked down a right-wing three-pointer with 1.5 seconds to play to give Cape May Tech a wild 51-50 victory over its county rival in front of a large crowd on Lower Cape May’s Senior Night.
“All I thought was, I gotta make this shot. I cannot let Lower Cape May win against us again,” Wright said. “This is my senior year and we had to have this one. We needed a great victory like this.”
Thanks to impressive defense, Cape May Tech (10-9) led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter and by 12 points early in the fourth. The Hawks held Lower to one field goal for nearly 15 minutes of game time from the start of the second quarter until a little more than a minute remaining in the third.
But Lower battled back in the fourth thanks to a barrage of three-pointers. Jordan Pierce hit a pair and Pat Moore and Ronnie Jackson each hit one during Lower’s run. The Tigers also made all seven of their free-throw attempts in the period.
Pierce brought Lower to within two points at 48-46 with a baseline three-pointer with exactly two minutes to go. Tom Gault later tied the game with two foul shots. Lower then took its first lead since early in the first quarter when Moore made two shots after getting fouled with 7.7 seconds left following a steal.
But Wright took the ensuring in-bounds pass, dribbled across halfcourt and to the right wing, firing his shot from in front of his team’s bench and falling to the floor after the release. The basket went through the net at 1.5 seconds. Lower Cape May was without timeouts and could not get off a desperation heave.
“We had a timeout but we decided not to use it,” Tech coach Josh Mercado said. “We had Josh moving in transition and that’s when he’s at his best. Josh got it up the court and then he just does what he does. It wasn’t designed. That’s just Josh being the special player that he is. That’s one he’ll always remember.”
Wright, who surpassed 2,000 career points last month, missed a similar potential game-winner against Wildwood in a two-point loss a couple of weeks ago.
“That game was really tough. This was the same exact shot, just a different side of the court. I’ve been practicing it,” Wright said.
“For Lower Cape May, that was one heck of a comeback against us,” Wright added. “That was great coaching by Mr. Holden (Lower coach Scott Holden). It was a crazy game. I’ll never forget this moment, ever.”
Wright finished with 20 points to lead all scorers. Freshman Dylan Delvecchio added 10.
“Your character gets judged when things get rough and I thought our guys fought back and were resilient when Lower was coming at us,” Mercado said. “They stuck together.”
Jackson led Lower (15-5) with 17 points, shooting 12 for 13 from the foul line. Pierce added nine.