By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD – The Wildwood High School boys basketball team may be lacking in natural talent. The Warriors are making up for it, however, with toughness and grit.
Wildwood scored a thrilling 58-52 victory in triple overtime over Brandywine in a wild game in the opening round of the Bernie McCracken Memorial Boys Bracket at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic Tuesday evening.
Wildwood will face Phoenixville (Pa.) in the bracket championship game Wednesday at 5 pm. The contest will be broadcast live on 98.7 The Coast radio with a live video stream at CoastSportsToday.com.
Wildwood trailed 8-1 to start the game and also fell behind by as many as seven points in the third quarter. The Warriors forced 28 Brandywine turnovers behind pressure man-to-man and run-and-jump defenses to rally both times.
“We can’t put the (offensive) numbers up like we did last year so we really have to buckle down and defend and the kids are buying into that,” McCracken said. “We have to grind things out. That’s how we have to win. We don’t have as much as we had last year but we do have really tough kids who just try to find a way.”
Dom Troiano’s traditional three-point play with 34 seconds remaining in the third overtime session sealed the victory for the Warriors.
Ahead by a point, Wildwood took more than two minutes off the clock but turned the ball over on the possession. Brandywine seemed on its way to a layup that would have given it the lead, but Wildwood’s Junior Hans knocked the ball away and started a fast break the other way. The ball eventually found its way to Dom Troiano, who scored while being fouled. His free throw gave Wildwood a 56-52 lead.
“At that point, after the turnover, I thought we were in trouble,” McCracken said. “They get the steal but then Junior somehow tips it away down the other end. Junior can do it all on both sides of the floor. He didn’t shoot it great today but he did a lot of really good things today.”
Jordan Fusik’s steal and layup in the final 15 seconds set the final score.
Hans scored 20 points to lead all scorers and also had eight steals. He sank a basket in the lane to tie the game late in regulation and also hit a twisting reverse layup with nine seconds to go in the first overtime to tie the score again.
Dom Troiano added 14 points and seven rebounds and Ernie Troiano finished with 13 points, five steals and four assists for Wildwood (3-1).