By BRIAN CUNNIFF
OCEAN CITY — It would be disingenuous to call the second game of a long high school basketball season a “must win.”
But after being on the wrong end of a lopsided score in its opener on Friday at Woodstown, Wildwood simply did not want to lose a close game the next day at the Ocean City PBA Tip-Off Weekend showcase event.
Thanks to a big fourth-quarter rally, the Warriors did not.
Wildwood came back from a deficit as large as nine points in the final period to edge Oakcrest, 51-49, in a game that featured a wild last 18 seconds.
Still down by five with less than a minute to play, Diante Miles got Wildwood within striking distance with a three-pointer with 34 seconds remaining.
After Oakcrest made a free throw with 24 seconds to go, Wildwood’s Omarian McNeal scored while being fouled and made the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 49.
Miles then stole the ball in the backcourt and was fouled going to the basket with six seconds remaining. He made both free throws to give the Warriors a 5-149 lead.
But the game was far from over. Wildwood fouled Oakcrest’s Jahlil Kearney on a three-point attempt with 1.7 seconds to go. But Kearney missed the first two shots, then committed a violation while trying to miss the third on purpose, allowing Wildwood (1-1) to hold on for the win.
McNeal led all scorers with 21 points and also had a team-high eight rebounds. Miles chipped in 11 points and three steals.
Nissim Respes scored 15 points to lead Oakcrest (1-1), which missed six of its last seven free-throw attempts and shot just 10 for 23 from the foul line for the game.