By BRIAN CUNNIFF
NORTH WILDWOOD — The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team hadn’t played a game in seven days, so there was some fear among those close to the program that the team might come out flat in its first state playoff game on Friday.
That fear was put to rest early.
The Crusaders, the top seed in the South Jersey Non-Public B Tournament, exploded for 25 first-quarter points and rolled to an 85-47 victory over No. 9 Holy Spirit in the second round.
“Not playing for that long, we were really eager to play,” said Wildwood Catholic junior forward Taj Thweatt. “We knew not to take them for granted. We had to play strong.”
Wildwood Catholic, which had earned a first-round bye, will host No. 4 Immaculata on Monday in a sectional semifinal game at 7 p.m.
After the game was tied at 5-5, Wildwood Catholic ripped off an 11-0 run to build a 16-5 lead. Holy Spirit never challenged again.
Wildwood Catholic’s two Division I prospects, juniors Jahlil White and Taj Thweatt, were tremendous in the victory. White shot an amazing 12 for 18 shots from the field and scored a game-high 29 points, while Thweatt made 10 of 14 shots and added 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
Junior Jacob Hopping, competing against the team for which he played as a freshman, added 18 points. He made 4 of 6 shots from three-point range.
“We moved the ball well,” Thweatt said. “Coach (Dave DeWeese) told us we needed to do that. We talked on defense and executed our plays well.”
The victory came at the back end of the girl-boy playoff doubleheader. Wildwood Catholic’s girls team beat Gill St. Bernard in the opener, with sophomore Marianna Papazoglou scoring her 1,000th career point in the win.
“It was a great night,” Thweatt said. “The energy in here was crazy. We like that kind of energy. We feed off it.”