By BRIAN CUNNIFF
NORTH WILDWOOD — The Wildwood Catholic High School girls basketball team got off to a rather slow start against Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Wednesday’s first-round South Jersey Non-Public B Tournament game.
That slow start was erased by an impressive second quarter.
After leading by just a point after one quarter, Wildwood Catholic blitzed OLMA with a 27-5 second-quarter run to take total control of the game en route to an 82-32 victory.
The win moves the fourth-seeded Crusaders into a second-round game against No. 5 Gill St. Bernard’s on Friday at 5 p.m. in Wildwood Catholic’s Sister Mary Ellen Ford Gymnasium. GSB was a 53-28 winner over No. 12 Mater Dei in its opening-round game.
OLMA’s Ava Casale netted 10 first-quarter points as Wildwood Catholic held just a 12-11 advantage after the period. But the Crusaders turned up their defensive pressure in the second quarter and forced nine OLMA turnovers, leading to quite a few easy baskets. Sophomore Marianna Papazoglou, on her way to an epic 35-point, 15-rebound, six-steal performance, scored 15 points in the period. Junior Gabby Turco and freshman Kimmy Casiello each added four in the period. OLMA (12-13) did not score its first field goal of the second quarter until 1:12 remained in the period.
Papazoglou shot 16 for 23 from the floor. She exited the game with 987 career points, leaving her 13 shy of becoming the first player in program history to reach 1,000 career points as a sophomore.
Gabby Turco, after going scoreless in the first quarter, added 25 points to the Crusader offense, getting 21 of them after halftime.
OLMA scored just one field goal over the second and third quarters.
Wildwood Catholic (22-5) held its Senior Night ceremonies prior to the game. Senior Jiana Fields earned a start and scored six points on a pair of three-pointers. Erin Connelly, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the season, was also honored by the team.