By BRIAN CUNNIFF
ASTON, Pa. — This one might hurt for a while.
The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team, putting a recent stretch of inconsistent play behind it, went toe-to-toe with the top-ranked team in the state in front of a sellout crowd of about 3,500 at Neumann University.
But the Crusaders couldn’t finish the job.
Jacob Hopping’s acrobatic layup at the buzzer of regulation gave Wildwood Catholic a chance, but Camden took it away by outscoring the Crusaders 12-3 in the extra period en route to a 63-54 victory.
“This is our kids’ kind of game, where they seem to rise to these types of challenges, and they did it again today,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. “They’ve proved they can play with anybody. At some point we have to beat one of these teams down the stretch. I thought today was the day and it wasn’t.”
Wildwood Catholic rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the second half. The Crusaders had the ball three times in the final 2 ½ minutes while holding a one-point lead, only to turn it over twice and miss two free throws. Camden eventually went ahead at 53-51 after a Lance Ware dunk and TaQuan Woodley free throw.
“I thought we were in the driver’s seat at the end,” DeWeese said. “We fought back to get the lead and we had them on their heels. Our best opportunity to win the game was in the final minute (of regulation) but it didn’t happen. We had a great opportunity.”
Following a timeout with 10 seconds to play, Wildwood Catholic eventually got the ball to Hopping, who drove to the lane from the right wing and banked a shot high off the glass and into the basket as time expired.
But Hopping, who scored seven of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, fouled out early in overtime and Camden freshman sensation D.J. Wagner sank both foul shots to give his team the lead for good. Wagner scored 10 of his 18 points in overtime.
“Jacob was just amazing today,” DeWeese said. “Having him foul out at the beginning of overtime was critical. It was deflating for us to have him foul out because there was just so much energy he created for us and he did so much for us. He really did a heck of a job in the fourth quarter. He got us to the place where we could have won the game but it just didn’t happen for us.”
Taj Thweatt added 13 points and Jahlil White chipped in 10 points for Wildwood Catholic (16-7), which shot just 6 for 14 from the foul line as a team for the game.
Devin Benson came off the bench to hit five three-pointers in scoring a game-high 19 points for Camden (20-1). Jerome Brewer added 10 points and Woodley chipped in eight points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots.