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VIDEO: Freshman’s big shot powers Middle past WCHS


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Nearly all of the players who saw action in Monday’s Cape-Atlantic United Conference girls basketball game between Middle Township and Wildwood Catholic have played multiple times in the intense rivalry.

The one who hadn’t, however, made the game’s biggest shot.

Freshman Jada Elston sank a left-wing three-point shot with 2 minutes, 33 seconds to play for her only basket of the game to give Middle the lead for good in what turned out to be a 35-32 victory over the Crusaders.

“She didn’t hesitate. She let that one fly,” Middle coach John Leahy said. “I thought we did a great job of just moving the ball. We made the extra pass and she made a great shot. Fortunately we were able to hang on.”

The win gives Middle (5-1) the upper hand in the race for the CAL United title.

Middle held a four-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, only to see Wildwood Catholic’s Alyia Gray-Rivera and Marianna Papazoglou make back-to-back three-point shots to put Wildwood Catholic ahead at 32-30.


After Middle’s Kate Herlihy made a free throw, the Lady Panthers got a defensive stop before Elston fired her team into the lead with her 21-footer.

“Jada’s been doing a really good job,” Leahy said. “There have been times, especially early on, I’ve felt bad because we’ve kind of thrown her to the wolves a little bit but she’s handled it great. We’re seeing her settling in and feeling more comfortable with every practice and every game and tonight she made a really big shot for us.”

Herlihy made another free throw after Middle milked more than 1:30 off the clock to set the final score. A desperation three-point shot by Wildwood Catholic’s Gabby Turco just prior to the buzzer was off the mark.

Middle went out to a 7-2 lead to start the game, only to see Wildwood Catholic score the final eight points of the period to go ahead by 10-7 after the opening quarter. Turco scored eight of her 10 points in the period.

But Middle held Wildwood Catholic (7-1) to only two points in the second frame and took a 13-12 lead into halftime.

The third quarter featured numerous ties and lead changes. Aubrey Hunter gave Middle the lead at 26-24 when she beat the buzzer on a basket off an offensive rebound.

That set the stage for a dramatic fourth quarter that turned Middle’s way on the three-point shot by Elston.

Herlihy led Middle with 13 points. Hunter added eight points and Maddie Barber chipped in seven.

Despite battling foul trouble throughout, Papazoglou led Wildwood Catholic with 12 points, netting 10 of them after halftime. She also had 13 rebounds.

Middle won despite getting just two points from star senior guard Kira Sides. Sides, who was averaging 19.6 points per game entering the contest, was battling a minor illness.

“I think they did a really good job on her and made it tough on her,” Leahy said. “She’s a little under the weather but that’s no excuse. It’s nice that the other kids stepped up a little bit. Of course, we’re going to lean on Kira and Kate but the other kids need to make plays and they did. We need contributions from everyone, and getting them in a game like this should only help our confidence.”

Middle Township helped its cause by bringing down 11 offensive rebounds.

“Whenever we play each other, both teams come in with a game plan, both teams are well coached and both teams are well disciplined,” Wildwood Catholic coach Steve DiPatri said. “It’s whoever makes the final plays and they made the final plays to win.

“I think if we did a little better job on the glass and don’t get in foul trouble in the first half it’s a different game. It wasn’t meant to be.”

The victory was Middle’s fifth straight over Wildwood Catholic.

The teams will meet again at Wildwood Catholic on Jan. 28.