By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD — The Wildwood High School boys basketball team looked to be in trouble Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors appeared rattled after letting a 22-point lead early in the third quarter dwindle to just five points against Salem.
But that’s when Omarian McNeal restored Wildwood’s control of the contest.
The 6-5 junior exploded for 14 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, including his team’s first 10 of the period, as Wildwood eventually pulled away for a 75-61 victory.
“He’s a special player for us,” Wildwood coach Scott McCracken said of McNeal. “He has a nose for the ball, he can rebound, he can get to the rim and he can shoot it, so he’s a big-time player for us.”
McNeal’s ability was never more evident than in one particular sequence early in the fourth quarter. He blocked a shot at the rim on the defensive end, ran hard up the floor and eventually caught a lob pass from teammate Seamus Fynes, contorting his body in midair while finishing for a layup.
“Probably what he does best is run the floor,” McCracken said.
McNeal shot 13 for 16 from the floor, including 4 for 4 from three-point range. He added 14 rebounds and two blocked shots.
McNeal was named the CoastSportsToday.com/98.7 The Coast Player of the Game for his efforts.
The victory kept Wildwood unbeaten in Tri-County Classic Division play and extended the team’s winning streak to eight games. The Warriors (8-1 overall, 7-0 TCC) play at Clayton Monday. A win against the Clippers would allow Wildwood to clinch its fourth division title in five seasons with a win Tuesday against Gloucester Catholic.
“We have to go on the road and play well before we think about Tuesday,” McCracken said. “The style (Clayton) plays is tough. They get up and down and we know it’s going to be a high-scoring game. We have to make sure we defend as best we can and try to get the win.”
Fynes added 23 points for Wildwood, getting 16 in the first half, including 11 in the opening quarter. Diante Miles added 15 points. Miles is 96 points away from 1,000 for his career.
While every other team in Cape May County has experienced scheduling issues due to COVID-19 quarantines, Wildwood has been able to play all of its games to date.