By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD — With a trip to the South Jersey championship game on the line, the Wildwood High School girls basketball team was perilously close to being in some serious danger against Schalick Saturday afternoon.
That’s when the Lady Warrior defense came alive.
After falling behind 17-10 midway through the second quarter, Wildwood forced five Cougar turnovers over the last 3 ½ minutes of the period and close the half on a 10-2 run. That spurt helped spark the Lady Warriors to a 42-31 victory and a place in the South Jersey Group I title game for the second time in three seasons.
Wildwood (21-8), the top seed in the bracket, will face No. 2 Haddon Township or No. 3 Palmyra on Monday at home at 5 p.m. for the sectional championship. Haddon Township and Palmyra were scheduled to meet later Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore Jenna Hans hit a pair of three-pointers and senior Maddie McCracken scored two baskets to account for Wildwood’s scoring during its game-changing run in the second quarter that gave the Lady Warriors a 20-19 lead at intermission.
Ahead 26-25 in the third quarter, McCracken sank two free throws and Imene Fathi hit a three-point shot to give Wildwood a 31-25 lead going into the final period. Schalick (20-8) got no closer in the fourth quarter.
Senior guard Maddie McCracken poured in 23 points for Wildwood, 15 of them after halftime. She scored all but seven of Wildwood’s points in the second half. Hans added six points and seven rebounds.
Wildwood’s defense limited Schalick to just four fields after halftime. In addition, the Cougars leading scorer, Tia Furbush, who entered the game averaging 18.5 points per game, was held to five points. She was scoreless in the second half.
Wildwood forced Schalick into 27 turnovers. The Lady Warriors had 11.
For the Lady Warriors, the victory avenged a 45-38 loss at Schalick on Feb. 14.
Wildwood won the South Jersey championship in 2017. The program is 9-2 overall in sectional championship games.