By BRIAN CUNNIFF
PITMAN — The Wildwood High School boys basketball team’s glass slipper still fits quite well.
The Warriors kept their surprising run in the South Jersey Group I Tournament going with their second straight road playoff victory, this time a 49-46 decision at Pitman on Thursday.
The victory places Wildwood — as a No. 14 seed — into the sectional semifinal round Saturday at 1 p.m. at No. 2 Glassboro. Glassboro was a 50-47 winner over No. 7 Woodbury in its quarterfinal game Thursday.
“This is something our seniors, our basketball team and everyone involved in our program won’t forget,” Wildwood coach Scott McCracken said. “To go into somebody else’s backyard and win two state playoff games and to get ourselves into a South Jersey semifinal on Saturday, this is really great for the kids.”
Wildwood, which had beaten No. 3 seed Salem in its tournament opener Tuesday for one of the state’s more shocking upsets in the opening round, trailed Pitman by seven at 41-34 with six minutes to play in the game but exploded for a 9-1 run. Will Long’s left-wing three-point basket with 3:20 to play broke a 42-42 tie and gave Wildwood (12-16) the lead for good.
“Down seven, we tried to turn up the pressure on defense to change the tempo of the game and we had some success with it,” McCracken said. “We got some turnovers and got back in the game.
“There’s no quit in our kids. During the timeouts on the bench, they were excited about getting back in the game and they were excited about defending and they went out and did it.”
Leading 45-44, Wildwood milked more than two minutes off the clock until Tyler Tomlin was fouled and made both ends of a one-and-one with 44 seconds remaining. Pitman responded with a basket, but Tomlin sank another pair of one-and-one free throws with 18 seconds left to put Wildwood back ahead by three at 49-46.
Rob Peterson, who led Pitman (8-19) with 16 points, missed a three-pointer with three seconds to go. The buzzer sounded before anyone could secure the rebound.
The win was Wildwood’s fifth straight. The last four have come away from home. And the last two have the Warriors living for at least one more practice and one more game.
“I give a lot of credit to our seniors,” McCracken said. “Will Long and Tyler Tomlin were incredible for us in the fourth quarter but Andrew Zielinski’s really been the key for us the last couple of games, going out and defending the other team’s best player.
“Our seniors have driven us. We didn’t have a lot of wins before the (state playoff) cutoff, hence the (No.) 14 seed. We had a bit of a disappointing season but the kids never quit and now we’ve won four straight games on the road. We stayed together and we believed we could win.”
Long led Wildwood with 18 points. He shot 7 for 11 from the floor. Tomlin added 12 points. The two seniors combined for all 15 of Wildwood’s fourth-quarter points.
Wildwood outscored Pitman 15-5 to close the game.