By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD — Ernie Troiano IV will gladly trade a tooth and endure a likely broken nose for a championship.
The junior guard from the Wildwood High School basketball team suffered two freak injuries within the first three minutes of Friday’s Tri-County Conference championship game against Overbrook.
Troiano dove to the floor for a loose ball near halfcourt in the opening moments of the game. While doing so, he collided with an Overbrook player also attempting to secure the loose ball. He ended up banging his head face first into the hardwood floor.
“I looked up and saw my tooth on the floor,” Troiano said. “I felt to see if I lost any more but it was just one.”
Troiano briefly exited the game. He came back a few moments later, only to catch an elbow to the nose almost immediately upon his return.
“I was taken out, and then five seconds after I went back in I got an elbow in the nose,” Troiano said. “I thought it might be broken.”
Troiano again left the game. Again, he refused to stay out long.
Troiano scored just one point but made a critical play on the offensive end in the fourth quarter. With Wildwood beginning to pull away en route to a 67-58 victory, Troiano tipped the long rebound of his own missed foul shot to teammate Seamus Fynes, who banked in a short shot in the lane to extend the Warrior lead.
Troiano made most of his contributions at the defensive end. He and teammate Miguel Claudio held Overbrook leading scorer Damian Rawls to zero field goals and two points in the second half. At one point in the fourth quarter, Troiano ripped the ball out of Rawls’ hands for a steal as Rawls drove into the lane toward the basket.
“Ernie gets his tooth knocked out, probably gets his nose broken, and stays in and plays,” Wildwood coach Scott McCraken said while shaking his head. “Ernie’s grit and toughness, that’s kind of what our team is all about.”
Troiano can get the tooth he lost replaced. He knows his nose will eventually heal.
The injuries were a small price to pay in an effort to bring a championship to his school.
“It’s awesome to out winning. It’s not normal to go out with a win,” Troiano said. “It’s nice for the seniors. They’ve already had a crappy year as it is. It’s great for them to leave on a good note.”