LIVE VIDEO – Girls basketball – Wildwood Catholic at Middle Township (Mon 2/1 at 6 pm)
February 1, 2021
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February 2, 2021

VIDEO: Graham’s late shot, Herlihy’s brilliance lead Middle past WCA


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — The superstars on the Middle Township High School and Wildwood Catholic Academy girls basketball teams certainly did their thing in Monday evening’s game.

But it was a rather inexperienced role player who made the game’s biggest shot.

With Middle clinging to a two-point lead with 1 minutes, 40 seconds to play, junior forward Kylie Graham knocked down a 17-foot jump shot that gave the Lady Panthers the breathing room they needed on their way to a 43-36 victory over the Crusaders in a matchup involving two of the Cape-Atlantic League’s best teams.

It may not have been the shot Middle wanted when Graham let it go, but the result was welcomed with joy.

“I think all coaches have had those, ‘No, no, no … yes!’ moments,” Middle coach John Leahy said with a laugh. “Thankfully that goes in and we can joke about it and tease about it. … We’re going to need to go over some more end-of-game stuff.”

Middle’s Kate Herlihy took the game over from there, making five free throws and a layup over the final 1:30 to seal the victory. That capped a wonderful performance by the 5-8 senior guard, who posted game highs of 24 points and 16 rebounds to go along with four steals and a blocked shot.

Herlihy was named the The Coast Player of the Game for her efforts.


“Kate is just fantastic,” Leahy said. “I told her the first day she walked into our gym that she could be as good as she wanted to be and that she could be the best player on the floor anytime she wants if she has that mentality. I’ve spoken to her about being a leader and dominating in practice to kind of show the other kids the way and that’s carried over into the games so far.”

The win gives Middle (2-0) a very early edge in the race for the pandemic-created Cape-Atlantic League East Division title. Other teams such as Ocean City, Mainland and Atlantic City will certainly have their say. Middle is scheduled to face Ocean City Wednesday and Mainland Friday.

“We’ve talked a little bit about big picture but, to be honest, with everything going on, the reality is that we’re focusing in on 24 hours at a time,” Leahy said. “As we stand here now, we’re allowed to practice tomorrow. So we’ll try to have a good, hard practice and get ready for Ocean City and try to do our best up there.

“That said, there’s a lot of balance in this division. I don’t think anybody’s running the table. I think the winner’s going to have two, maybe three losses. This week is a grind but we’re off to a good start.”

Middle Township went out to a 16-8 lead at intermission after a deliberately played first half. Herlihy scored eight points in the half, while Crusader star Marianna Papazoglou was limited to only two points through the opening two quarters.

Wildwood Catholic (2-1) frantically tried to quicken the tempo in the second half. But Middle took its largest lead of the game at 28-15 when Lynasia Harris bounced in a deep three-pointer with 1:35 to go in the third quarter.

Wildwood Catholic didn’t fold, however, as Papazoglou took the game over for a long stretch. She scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half and helped fuel a 17-6 run that saw her team draw to within two at 34-32.

But that’s when Graham sank the game’s most critical shot for Middle.

“That’s a big turning point. That put the lead back to four with a little over a minute to go,” Wildwood Catholic coach Steve DiPatri said.

Wildwood Catholic shot just 14 for 56 from the floor, missing all 13 of its three-point tries.

“Our first half really hurt us,” DiPatri said. “I don’t think we came in here with the intensity needed to play this game. Our execution wasn’t where it needed to be. Middle came in with a great game plan and executed it. They hit some big shots early and got a lead and we had to adjust our game plan and try to come back and it wasn’t enough. We need to do a much better job executing if we’re going to win big games against good teams.”

The teams are scheduled to play again on Feb. 19 in North Wildwood.